Call to Order and Roll Call
The9th meeting of the Tobacco Settlement Agreement Fund Oversight Committee was held on Friday, November 5, 2010, at 10:00 AM, in Room 129 of the Capitol Annex. Senator Carroll Gibson, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Guests: Roger Thomas, Joel Neaveill, Christi Marksbury, Mike Tobin, and Jennifer Hudnall, Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy; Randy Seymour, Roundstone Native Seed Co.
Legislative Guest: Representative Fred Nesler.
Minutes of the October 6, 2010, meeting were approved by voice vote and without objection on a motion by Senator McGaha and second by Senator Givens.
Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy Report
Mr. Roger Thomas, Executive Director, Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy (GOAP) and Mr. Joel Neaveill, GOAP Chief of Staff, reported on the actions of the Agricultural Development Board (ADB) at its October meetings.
Before discussing projects considered by the ADB at its earlier meeting, Mr. Thomas reported on two issues – some recent meetings conducted to update county extension agents on changes to the County Agricultural Investment Program (CAIP) and the recent United States Department of Agriculture drought designation for most Kentucky counties.
According to Mr. Thomas’ testimony, the extension agents, who administer the county councils, were generally receptive to the CAIP changes. In turn, comments received from the agents would be taken up by the ADB at its two-day planning sessions later in November.
The USDA granted the drought disaster designation for 91 counties; 63 of the counties were “primary counties” while 28 were deemed “contiguous counties.” Responding to one committee member, Mr. Rogers indicated the contiguous counties had not experienced as much drought damage as the primary counties. The counties would still be in line for assistance through the Farm Service Agency.
Following a review of the CAIP projects approved for funding at the prior ADB meeting, Mr. Neaveill reviewed the projects receiving county funding.
Regarding the approval of Hardin and Barren county funds for a Western Kentucky University Research Foundation climate data collection program, Senator Givens posed a question that he had received from an extension agent about collecting data on rainfall amounts from different counties to come up with an average for regions. Mr. Neaveill mentioned the director of the program and indicated he would help the senator make contact. They also said they would provide Senator Givens with detailed information about the scope of the data collection program.
They indicated to Co-chair Gibson that two other counties that were asked, but did not contribute funding for the program, had decided their local soil conservation district could provide comparable data, if needed. They told the co-chair that local officials generally approve the placement of the climate equipment in particular counties.
Responding to Senator McGaha about the ATP Greenhouse LLC project in Butler County, they pointed out that fertilizer was not included on the list of items that could be purchased with the funds approved for the project.
Regarding a project denied funding, the Greenleaf Plant Food Wholesale Inc. endeavor, the board had not granted previous funding to the company, they told Co-chair Gibson.
Roundstone Native Seeds Report
The committee heard a presentation by Mr. Randy Seymour, Chairman, Roundstone Native Seed Co., Hart County, which has received ADB grant funding and a loan from the Kentucky Agricultural Finance Corporation.
Mr. Seymour described his background to the committee and detailed the development of the company, which began on a small scale by supplying native grass seeds to the Nature Conservancy and the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. Since then, the company has grown from having a few garden-size plots to large production fields. In addition to its own production, Roundstone has 42 farmers in the area growing seed plants for the company. At present, the company supplies native seeds to entities in several states. Universities number among the company’s customers.
In his presentation, Mr. Seymour mentioned some potential legislative issues.
According to Mr. Seymour, there is no mechanism in place for the Division of Regulatory Services to routinely test native seeds being shipped from out of state to customers via the U.S. Postal Service or other carriers. He indicated the division routinely checks the seeds that he produces. Unregulated seed shipments, he explained, may contain noxious seeds or invasive plant seeds. According to Mr. Seymour, legislation is needed to require the Division of Regulatory Services to test seeds that are being shipped into the state. The division does not check seeds authorized for use in Transportation Cabinet, Fish and Wildlife Services, or mine reclamation projects, according to his testimony.
Mr. Symour testified that some states have defined ecotype seeds, which would be native a particular area. He mentioned certain wildflowers and the like that are routinely used in roadside planting projects, but those are grown in either other countries or other states. He urged legislative assistance in defining “native” ecotype seeds.
Responding to questions from Senator Givens, Mr. Seymour said he foresees increased propagation of warm season native grasses as the trend increases toward production of biomass energy crops.
Asked about biomass-type crops being planted as a part of the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), Mr. Seymour indicated the “door is closed” at this time because of the USDA’s approach in wanting CREP acreages devoted to wildlife habitat. He also said he was disappointed regarding the grasses allowed in current sign-ups under the CP-25 facet of CREP.
He indicated to Senator Gibson that the growth of nodding thistles on some CREP fields occurred because the fields formerly were planted as pastureland, but as the land ceased being used as pasture, once the pastureland went away, the weedy plants emerged. He indicated to the senator that most grasses approved under CREP are not biomass or forage plants. He cited the importance of directing farmers to plans that have good biomass or forage potential.
Documents distributed during the committee meeting are available with meeting materials in the LRC Library.
The meeting adjourned at approximately 11:30 a.m.