Call to Order and Roll Call
The1st meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Agriculture was held on Wednesday, June 12, 2013, at<MeetTime> 10:00 AM, at Godís Pantry Food Bank, Lexington, Kentucky. Representative Tom McKee, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Paul Hornback, Co-Chair; Representative Tom McKee, Co-Chair; Senators Sara Beth Gregory, Stan Humphries, Dennis Parrett, Kathy W. Stein, Damon Thayer, and Whitney Westerfield; Representatives Lynn Bechler, Mike Denham, Myron Dossett, C.B. Embry Jr., Derrick Graham, Richard Heath, Richard Henderson, Kim King, Martha Jane King, Michael Meredith, Terry Mills, Ryan Quarles, Tom Riner, Steven Rudy, Jonathan Shell, John Short, Rita Smart, Wilson Stone, Tommy Turner, and Susan Westrom.
Guests: Marian Guinn, CEO, Kentucky Association of Food Banks; Tamara Sandberg, Executive Director, Kentucky Association of Food Banks; Commissioner Beth Mills, Social Services, Lexington Fayette Urban County Government; Glen Abney, Bourbon County producer; Dr. Timothy Woods, UK Food Systems Innovation Center; Roger Thomas, Executive Director, Governorís Office of Agricultural Policy; and John McCauley, State Director, Farm Services Agency.
John McCauley, FSA, discussed disaster assistance programs for the farms that suffered severe tornado damage. Mr. McCauley said that the 2013 Farm Bill, which has yet to be approved by Congress, contains the funds that are necessary for the disaster assistance programs.
Commissioner Beth Mills, Social Services, Lexington Fayette Urban County Government welcomed the members to the distribution center. She explained that Godís Pantry Food Bank is a national model, and that it plays a vital role in providing quality food for families.
Update on Industrial Hemp:
Representative McKee, Representative Mills, and Representative Stone reported on their respective meetings with officials in Canada and Washington, D.C. regarding industrial hemp. Representative McKee said that Canada is building a plant for processing hemp that would cost approximately $5 million and employ 30 people. The plant is owned by China. Senator Hornback said that he met with officials in Washington to get an amendment to the Farm Bill that would move the legalization of hemp and hemp regulations from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to the Department of Agriculture. Although the amendment failed, it created discussion. He said that Governor Beshear sent a letter to the President and Kentuckyís congressional delegation encouraging the United States Attorney General, the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to work with DEA to identify economic opportunities in the hemp industry that do not negatively impact drug eradication efforts. Representative Mills and Representative Stone agreed that the trip to Canada was informative and positive and confirmed that industrial hemp should be grown.
Godís Pantry Food Bank: Statewide hunger issues; HB 141 as a part of SB 1, the results of a limited study on the usage of food banks; commitment of the Agriculture Development Board to the Farms to Food Bank organizations.
Marian Guinn, CEO, Kentucky Association of Food Banks, and Tamara Sandberg, Kentucky Association of Food Banks, stated that the distribution center consists of 46,000 square feet. The Kentucky Association of Food Banks (KAFB) serves all counties in partnership with a network of over 1,000 local food pantries and shelters. KAFB feeds one in seven Kentuckians each year. The federal Emergency Food Assistance Program and the Commodity Supplement Food Program have sustained significant funding cuts that resulted in terminating approximately 400 senior citizens from the programs.
Ms. Guinn said that 17 percent of the stateís population, over 700,000 people, are food insecure. They do not know where their next meal will come from. Since 1984, the need has been increasing, and the number of people needing assistance has increased to 84 percent. Ms. Sandberg said that Food Bank clients report having to choose between paying for food, utilities, gas for their vehicle, or medicine. The Food Bank is building alliances to impact hunger relief in Kentucky.
Ms. Sandberg also explained that the Farms to Food Banks program increases the availability of fresh, healthy produce and helps farmers reduce the amount of wasted food and recover losses. The goals of the Farms to Food Banks program are to increase access to healthy food, pay fair prices to farmers, and reduce the amount of wasted food. As a result of the passage of the Farms to Food Banks legislation, approximately 2,148,975 pounds of food has been distributed to 116 counties. The fiscal impact to producers resulted in an average payment of $1,079. Starting in 2014, taxpayers will be given the option through a tax check-off on their Kentucky state tax form to donate to the nonprofit food banks. Also, taxpayers donating any edible agricultural products to nonprofit food programs will receive a tax credit equaling 10 percent of the value. The food banks would appreciate any General Assembly funding to support needy families.
Mr. Glen Abney, a Bourbon County producer, has been selling produce to the Food Bank for the past four years. The number one income for him is tobacco, and the number two income is selling produce. Selling produce to the Food Banks helps offset expenses and is a way to help needy Kentuckians who need fresh produce in their diet.
Dr. Timothy Woods, University of Kentucky Food Systems Innovation Center, Department of Agriculture Economics, explained the impact of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Produce Sourcing Project. The objective of the evaluation was to determine the impact of the program for food bank clients. Surveys were distributed to three food banks supporting nine food pantries. A total of 217 usable surveys were collected from different individuals. The vast majority of responses came from persons who were primarily responsible for grocery shopping and preparing meals at home. The average client prepared 13.2 meals at home per week, which is equivalent to about 52 meals per month. Based on a 2011 Kentucky Food Consumer Survey, only 11 meals per month were prepared at home by the average Kentucky food consumer. He said that 88 percent of the clients surveyed had intentions of using fresh produce in 2012 as compared to 2011. The biggest barrier for purchasing fresh produce was the price. Other barriers included home storage, bulky transport, and no access to stores that that sell produce.
The survey found that there was a strong interest in seeing more fresh produce available through food pantries. Dr. Woods said that there was strong evidence of expanded awareness and use of fresh produce among food bank clients. Interest was also strong in seeing the program extended in both volume and the variety of items. The role of the food bank was helping consumers lower cost barriers for produce consumption.
In response to questions from Representative Bechler and Senator Stein, Mr. Woods said that only adults were considered as consumers. The serving size of a meal portion was smaller than recommended by the United States Department of Agriculture.
Mr. Roger Thomas, Governorís Office of Agricultural Policy, described the Agricultural Development Boardsí state and county fund grants to the food bank effort, beginning in 2009 and extending to this year. The Board has approved up to $75,000 with matching county funds so far in 2013.
In response to Representative Westrom, Ms. Sandberg said that the guideline for obtaining food from the Food Pantry was proof of residence, but if a client needed food, the Food Pantry would find a way to provide it.
Representative Graham said that he strongly encouraged the General Assembly to work across party lines to serve the needs of approximately 800,000 Kentuckians.
The meeting adjourned at 12:00 p.m.