The Kentucky Agriculture Disaster Relief FundPosted on Mar 14, 2022
A collaborative effort to help farmers recover from devastating tornadoes
Kentucky agriculture has often been referred to as a collective family, one that comes together, especially in times of need, to help and support one another. Never has that been more evident than in the days, weeks, and now, months since tornadoes ripped through portions of the state in the late hours of December 10, and early morning hours of the next day, as well as those storms that occurred January 1.
Many initiatives have developed, at a number of levels, over the last several weeks to help get needed donations and supplies to these affected areas.
Recognizing the monumental losses of those people in these devastated areas, leadership at Kentucky Farm Bureau (KFB) and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) came together to create the Kentucky Agriculture Disaster Relief Fund to specifically help farm families and those local farm supply businesses recover and rebuild after the damaging storms.
KFB President Mark Haney said many of the infrastructure needs on the farm are vital to help sustain those operations.
“Things like fencing and gates and panels and water systems, are just an example of the items that are important in actual farming, every day, even though many of those things a farmer may not have included in their insurance coverage,” he said. “We wanted to come up with a plan to help supply those specific needs to the farmers while helping those local businesses that normally supply many of their infrastructure needs.”
In addition to KFB and KDA’s involvement in creating the fund, an integral part of that plan involved the expertise of the Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development (KCARD), a non-profit organization established to facilitate agricultural and rural business development in Kentucky, providing educational opportunities, technical assistance, and business support services to new and existing agribusinesses.
The agency was instrumental in setting up a system that would utilize money collected in the relief fund to go to local farm supply businesses which in turn would allow them to give certain supplies, up to a specified monetary level, to their farm customers.
“We came up with a plan to fund these supplies, through those local retail stores in affected areas, as a way for farmers to come in and pick up their prepaid supplies,” Haney said. “And we put together a menu of things that they can choose from that made sense.”
KCARD Executive Director Aletta Botts said in contacting many of the local businesses in the storm-affected areas, she saw how effective this program could be.
“We started reaching out to some of the farm stores in those areas; the ones that again were locally owned and just finding out their thoughts on how this program could work, and getting their feedback, " she said. "As a result, we were able to give that feedback to KFB and KDA and put together something within a week after the storms."
Botts added that it was important to keep those dollars as local as possible to benefit those communities that were so adversely affected.
"The good thing about this is farmers know what they need more than anyone else does," she said. "And so, it allowed them to help use stores that they already had a business relationship with, and then get what they needed. "KCARD staff Mattea Mitchell, Spencer Guinn, and Kellie Padgett were instrumental in making those connections to the stores and making this program work as it was intended."
Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said in the wake of December’s devastating tornadoes, Kentucky’s agriculture community mobilized to support producers affected by the storms.
“Working together with KFB, UK, and KCARD, as well as individual support across the nation, we put together a program to help our farm families and our rural communities," he said. "We've shown, in this response, that we are going to handle this situation just as farmers do; when we get knocked down, we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and get to work."
Haney said that the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment (UKCAFE) Extension has also played a pivotal role in finding out those specific needs in the various areas.
UK’s Nancy Cox, Vice President for Land-grant Engagement and UKCAFE Dean said Extension’s deep roots in communities have helped to assess and address needs quickly.
“Our work with KFB strengthens the response of both to support our producers and our neighbors,” she said. “Along with KFB and KDA, who provided funding and donations, Extension helped identify what farmers needed to put the dollars to work.”
Working collectively with KDA, KCARD, and the UK’s Extension Service, has proven to be critical in discovering just what the needs are in each area and getting those local businesses signed up to participate, Haney noted.
“Having extension agents in each county proved to be a real benefit to this program and all others in which goods or donations were being sent,” he said. “They proved to be the boots on the ground, helping us to know what the greatest needs were in those affected areas.”
Over the last several weeks, the fund has grown to a total of more than$1.5 million and is being disseminated through the Kentucky Farm Bureau Educational Foundation. Businesses that have signed up to participate will receive an initial $30,000 to pay for specific goods that will be given to local qualifying farmers, up to a total of $1,500, for each one. Once these funds have been used by these businesses, additional funds may be given after that initial $30,000, until the fund has been depleted.
“It is not surprising to see the large amount of money that we have raised so far through this initiative because that is indicative of our agriculture community,” Haney said. “What we need to do now is make sure all who could benefit from this program, know about it.”
He also thanked the many organizations that have worked together to make this program possible.
“This relief effort would not have been possible without the help from several people and agencies who put the goal of this project ahead of anything else,” Haney said. “When we work selflessly together, we can accomplish so much more. We will always remember this time because of the sheer destruction left in the wake of these horrific storms, but we will also remember the way we have banded together to help our friends and neighbors; those we know and don’t know, to continue the rebuilding efforts of so many communities.”
To learn more about the program and how to sign up, go to www.kcard.info/disaster-relief.