Why KFB? - Kentucky Farm Bureau

Why KFB?

Why Join Kentucky Farm Bureau

We take pride in a friendly company culture, a healthy work-life balance and our commitment to a happier you.

When you’re here, you’re not just another face in a cubicle. Those who make up the KFB family define who we are. Here are just some of the ways we thank them:

Young Farmer Contests

*Contest applicants are eligible to compete in only one contest per year*

Outstanding Young Farm Family

The Outstanding Young Farm Family recognizes Young Farmers who have excelled in their farm or ranch and have honed their leadership abilities to superiority. Participants are involved in production agriculture with a majority of their income subject to normal production risks. Judges evaluate competitor's excellence in management, growth and scope of their enterprise and self-initiative that have been displayed throughout the farm or ranch.

Applications are due May 14, 2024.

2024 Outstanding Young Farm Family Application

2024 Outstanding Young Farm Family Rubric

Excellence In Agriculture

The Young Farmers (YF) Excellence in Agriculture Award competition is designed as an opportunity for young farmers and ranchers to earn recognition, while actively contributing and growing through their involvement in Farm Bureau and agriculture. Participants will be judged on their involvement in agriculture, leadership ability, and participation/involvement in Farm Bureau and other organizations (i.e., civic, service and community). The ideal candidate(s) for the Excellence in Agriculture Award is an individual or couple who does not have the majority of his/her gross income subject to normal production risk.

Applications are due May 14, 2024.

2024 Excellence in Agriculture Application

2024 Excellence in Agriculture Application Rubric

2024 Excellence in Agriculture Presentation Rubric

Discussion Meet

Farm Bureau’s strength depends on its members’ abilities to analyze agricultural issues and decide on solutions that best meet their needs. The competition is designed to simulate a committee meeting where discussion and active participation are expected from each committee member. Participants build basic discussion skills, develop a keen understanding of important agricultural issues and explore how groups can pool knowledge to reach consensus and solve problems. A successful participant is a productive thinker rather than an emotional persuader. He/she will assist the group in creating ways to implement the solutions discussed and highlight Farm Bureau’s involvement in those actions/steps.

2024 Discussion Meet Application

2024 Discussion Rubric

2024 Discussion Meet Questions

 

7 tips for window safety

7 tips for window safety blog
To minimize the risk of accidents, have a chat with your kiddo about window safety. | Photo credit: Adobe Stock

Windows provide sunlight, a nice breeze, and an opportunity to escape a home in the event of an emergency. However, without proper care and education, they can also be a huge risk to the safety of your children.

According to the National Safety Council, about eight children under the age of five die each year from falling out of a window, and more than 3,300 are injured seriously enough to go to the hospital.

As warmer weather arrives and some may wish to open windows and let the warm spring air in, it’s important to remember the dangers tied to this common home feature. This is why the National Safety Council encourages everyone to observe the first full week of April as National Window Safety Week.

Here are some basic tips to keep your wee ones safe from the dangers associated with windows:

  1. If a window is open for ventilation, be sure that it is not within a child’s reach. If a home features double-hung windows, open the top and keep the bottom closed, especially on upper floors.
  2. If a window is closed, check to make sure it is also locked.
  3. Keep furniture away from windows to prevent children from climbing on the furniture and potentially falling into or through the window.
  4. Keep in mind that screens are meant to keep insects out of homes. They are not designed to keep children from falling out of windows, and they will not hold a child’s weight in the case of a fall.
  5. Install limited-opening hardware, which only allows windows to open a few inches. Be aware that the window guard must have a release mechanism so that it can be opened for escape in a fire emergency.
  6. Always check that cords are out of reach of young children, and use cordless window coverings when possible (child-safe window blinds and shades are available at many home improvement stores). Nearly one child a month dies after becoming entangled in a window-covering cord, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
  7. Most importantly, educate your child on the dangers of windows. For a printable children’s activity book provided by the National Safety Council, click here.
     

>> At Kentucky Farm Bureau, we’re just as invested in your home as you are. We help protect what’s important to you – from farms and fishing boats to minivans and mobile homes. To see a full list of products we insure, click here.

 

Fayette County Farm Bureau Assists Dozens of Agencies in Food Distribution Initiative

Kentucky Farm Bureau (KFB) has a long history of participating in events and programs to help feed those in need. Last month members of the Fayette County Farm Bureau (FCFB), state KFB leaders, and members and leaders within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints came together to distribute 40,000 lbs. of donated food to participating nonprofits and agencies from Central Kentucky that assist with hunger relief.

This project actually got its start last summer when KFB Board members, who were on an education tour, visited Salt Lake City and helped pack boxes of food for a program overseen by the Church with donations facilitated by the Utah Farm Bureau Miracle of Ag Foundation, the American Farm Bureau Federation, and farm families across the nation.

During the 2024 American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual convention, attendees had the opportunity to pack an untold number of food boxes each containing enough food for a family of four to enjoy over the course of a weekend. 

After that event, arrangements were made to have one of the many truckloads of food that the Church sends out annually, to come to Kentucky.

Fayette County Farm Bureau President Jason Whitis said there is a great need for food in the area and this project helped to fulfill some of that need. 

“Surprisingly, we have a lot of children in need here in Fayette County, and we felt like if we could help them out, that'd be a great opportunity,” he said. “Working with Kentucky Farm Bureau and local church members, we were able to get 40 or 50 organizations here involved to come and help distribute this food.”

Fayette County Farm Bureau Women's
Chair Bonnie Eads prepares to deliver
food boxes for those in need.

Whitis added that there is no better group to help feed the needy than the farmers who grow the food. 

“As farmers, we love to see that the efforts we're putting in to grow the food, go to help those who are needing it and are hungry,” he said. “Unfortunately, this will only last a few days and these agencies will have to look for their next opportunity. So, we're trying to develop that relationship asking how we can continue to make those connections so that these people can not only get food today, but to continue to get food when they need it.” 

Troy Rindlisbacher is a farm manager, and production project manager from Utah who is one of the many farmers who grows some of the food used for the distribution boxes. He said there are many who help to support these efforts of feeding hungry people.

“It begins with a lot of us, that's for sure and the Church has these operations all over the place,” he said “It’s interesting if you look at the box, it’s full of different varieties of things grown in different parts of the country. I like to say (this initiative) is literally from seed to stomach.”

Rindlisbacher added that while the food may come from different places with different people involved, it all has a shared objective.

“We may be of different religions, we may be from different backgrounds, we grow different things, but we all have a common goal,” he said. “We try to feed people.”

Events

Young Farmer Leadership Conference

This event is designed to provide our young farmers with leadership workshops and opportunities they can use daily on and off their farms. Young Farmers are provided with resources to help grow their operations and leadership skills.

The 2024 Young Farmer Leadership Conference took place January 5-6 in Covington, KY.

Young Farmer Summer Outing

This event is designed to connect our young farmers and allow them the opportunity to travel the state and tour diverse agriculture operations; allowing our young farmers to ask questions to producers. In addition, attendees are provided a fun relaxing atmosphere to network and grow as leaders. 

The 2024 Young Farmer Summer Outing will take place June 28-29 in Ashland, KY.

To attend the 2024 Young Farmer Summer Outing, Register here

 

Spring motorcycle maintenance checklist

Have you heard the rumblings? KFB insures motorcycles! For more information, click here. | Photo credit: Adobe Stock

Riders, rejoice! It’s nearly time to haul your warm-weather wheels out of hibernation. We know you’ve been dreaming of longer, warmer days for cruising Kentucky, but there are a few things you can do now to get a jump start on your spring riding time.

  • Fill it up.
    The National Automotive Parts Association (NAPA) recommends starting the riding season with a fresh tank of gas. While this may require you to rid of old gas using a siphon pump, it’s important because stale fuel can cause extensive damage to internal lines. If you winterized your tank in the fall using a gas stabilizer, then you may not need to do this step.
     
  • Charge or replace the battery.
    Many people place their battery on a trickle charger over the winter. If you forgot, be sure to test its power come springtime! Sitting in storage over winter can quickly drain your battery level, and it will likely need to be charged, if not replaced.   
     
  • Check the tire pressure.
    Tires have a tendency to lose pressure during bouts of cold weather. In fact, colder temperatures will cause tire pressure to lose about 1 PSI for every 10°F drop in air temperature, according to Consumer Reports. Because of this, you should always check your tire pressure before hitting the pavement. Check your owner’s manual to find the manufacturer’s recommended PSI for your make and model. Also, do a quick inspection for any bald spots or even dry rot caused by extended periods of sitting in cold weather. Proper tire tread is essential to safely handling the road on two wheels.
     
  • Change the oil.
    Even if you had your bike serviced toward the end of last year’s riding season, NAPA says it’s not a bad idea to start the spring out with fresh oil and a filter change. Fifteen minutes can make a world of difference in your bike’s life span.
     
  • Perform a general check-up.
    Once you’ve completed the above steps, take a moment to make sure the rest of your bike is in good working condition. Do the blinkers, flashers, headlights, tail lights, and brake lights work? Do the brake pads show excessive wear? Are there any visible problems with the bike’s belts or chains? Are your brake fluid levels where they should be?

We know you’re itching to get back on two wheels, but completing this spring motorcycle checklist ahead of time can keep you and your bike safe for the entirety of the riding season.

>> Have you heard the rumblings? KFB now insures motorcycles! For more information, click here.

Combating distracted driving... with your phone?

How can phones combat distracted driving?
Cellphone blocking technology removes the temptation of distracted driving altogether by prohibiting calls or texts while a vehicle is in motion. | Photo credit: Adobe Stock

If you’re a cellphone owner, you know the intense gravitational pull felt in response to a ding or vibration indicating the arrival of a new message. For most people, that magnetism unfortunately doesn’t go away when driving.

Technology got us in this mess, and technology is going to get us out. At least, that’s the sentiment of Deborah Hersman, the president of the NSC.

Cellphone companies and application developers are taking steps to combat the prevalent issue of distracted driving. Cellphone blocking technology removes the temptation of distracted driving altogether by prohibiting calls or texts while a vehicle is in motion. This technology can come in the form of a downloadable app, adding a service to your wireless plan or installing a device into your vehicle to create a “geofence” (a virtual barrier).  Devices that connect with onboard diagnostics stop your phone when the car is engaged and can send an auto reply to calls and texts.       

Popular tech giant Apple took their first stab at distracted driving with an iOS update in fall of 2017. The optional “Do Not Disturb While Driving” safety feature aims to keep drivers focused on the road by blocking notifications on an iPhone’s lock screen and sending a voluntary, automatic reply to those attempting to text.           

This technology hasn’t seemed to catch on just yet. Only 20.5% of survey respondents with do-not-disturb-compatible iPhones had it set to activate automatically when driving or when connected to a vehicle's Bluetooth, according to a 2020 survey by IIHS. 

Several third-party apps with varying features are available for download in your phone’s app store. While most of them have call- and text-blocking capabilities, others go a step further by allowing parents to track their teen drivers, blocking email and internet access, and disabling smartphone cameras.

It’s important to note that a major concern among those looking to install this technology is the ability to reach 911. Emergency overrides come standard on all blocking devices and apps.

>> In Kentucky, there’s so much to live for. Join us in driving distraction-free.
To learn more about distracted driving’s prevalence in the Bluegrass State, 
click here.

 

Distracted driving has been around longer than you think

From the 1960s to now: a history of distracted driving blog
Scientist John Senders wrote in a report published in 1967 about the phenomenon of “road hypnotization” – staring at the road ahead, but not actually seeing it. | Photo credit: Adobe Stock

The notion of distracted driving goes as far back as the invention of the automobile itself. There have always been external distractions – like billboards or people on the side of the road. Internal distractions are nothing new, either – tuning a radio, fiddling with the A.C., reaching for a French fry, or parenting from the front seat. 

 

The pioneer of distracted driving

In 1963, scientist John Senders investigated how much time a driver had to spend looking at the roads to drive effectively
In 1963, scientist John Senders investigated how much time a driver had to spend looking at the roads to drive effectively.

Early examples of distracted driving studies go back as far as 1963, when scientist John Senders took to the roads blindfolded – all in the name of research.  The Bureau of Public Roads (now the Federal Highway Administration) tasked him with investigating how much time a driver had to spend looking at the roads to drive effectively. To gather his needed data, Senders hopped into a Dodge Polara and drove into midday traffic on I-495 in Massachusetts.

The twist: he was wearing a motorcycle helmet with a sandblasted opaque shield, which was rigged to a sensor that periodically flipped it down over his eyes. With the visor down, Senders could see nothing until he triggered it to lift again for a fraction of a second.   

Senders’ findings were indicative of the future. He wrote in a report published in 1967 about the phenomenon of “road hypnotization” – staring at the road ahead, but not actually seeing it. Senders noted a plethora of distractions tugging at drivers’ focus, including the rearview mirror, conversing with a passenger, and checking out landmarks.      

This study led him to develop the “occluded vision paradigm as a measure of attentional demand” (now a part of the protocol for assessment of distraction). This technique is still used today in driving studies and has a long and diverse history of applications, including its use in the development of instrument panel designs in airplane cockpits.    

Senders won an Ig Nobel Prize in Public Safety in 2011 for his study, “The Attentional Demand of Automobile Driving.” He died in 2019 at the age of 99.    

 

The arrival of cellphones
If only Senders had known what was coming next.    

In 1983, something arrived on the scene that drastically changed the definition of “distracted driving.” That year, cellular telephones were introduced to the American marketplace. 

By 1997, the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) reported that there were more than 50 million cellular customers in the U.S.  That same year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) launched one of the first intensive studies into the effects of wireless phones on driving.

Among those surveyed, nine out of 10 cellular telephone owners reported using them while driving. This study also surveyed the effects of driving and using a cellphone (inability to maintain speed, lane drifting, and weaving).  The study highlighted comments by police officers, who were seeing an increased amount of odd behavior on the roads in conjunction with cellphone usage.

According to AT&T, today more than 90 percent of people say they know the dangers of texting and driving, yet many still find ways to rationalize their behavior.
 

Law enforcement takes action
Florida became the first state to ban the use of any sort of mobile communications device with a law against using headsets, headphones, or any other listening device in 1992. Arizona followed shortly after in 1996, with restrictions on the use of hand-held and/or hands-free communication devices by school drivers.

In 2001, several other states (New Jersey, Illinois, Massachusetts, and New York) followed suit, enacting various bans on communications devices while driving. New York was the very first state to restrict the use of hand-held devices by all drivers.

Kentucky’s first law regarding distracted driving and cellphone usage was passed in 2007. It restricted the use of hand-held or hands-free devices by school bus drivers. On April 15, 2010, the Commonwealth House Bill 415 was signed into law, banning texting for drivers of all ages while a vehicle is in motion.

 

Today
In 2011, the number of wireless subscriber connections in the U.S. (315.9 million) surpassed the population (315.5 million), according to CTIA. Today, more than 97% of Americans own a mobile phone.

Currently, talking on a hand-held cellphone while driving is banned in 27 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Thirty-six states and D.C. ban all cellphone use by novice or teen drivers, and 25 states and D.C. prohibit any cellphone use by school bus drivers.

Text messaging is banned for all drivers in 49 states (including Kentucky) and in D.C., Guam, and the Virgin Islands.

Click here to check out your state's laws regarding cellphone usage

In Kentucky, there is a texting ban. No laws currently restrict talking on a hand-held phone behind the wheel. Drivers younger than 18 and school bus drivers are under an “all cell phone ban,” which means these two groups are prohibited from any cell phone usage, including making hand-held phone calls.

The enforcement of these laws is “primary” in Kentucky, meaning a police officer may pull over and ticket a driver if he or she simply observes a violation in action.

In a society of increasingly unlimited availability, it’s obvious that this problem isn’t going away anytime soon. Don’t let a smiley face emoji be the reason you get a ticket – or worse. Please drive distraction-free.
 

>> In Kentucky, there’s so much to live for. Join us in driving distraction-free.
To learn more about distracted driving’s prevalence in the Bluegrass State, click here. 

 

Automakers' response to distracted driving

Technology's role in distracted driving blog
Make Kentucky’s roads a safe place to be, and join Kentucky Farm Bureau in driving distraction-free.| Photo credit: Adobe Stock

Today, 97 percent of Americans you pass on the road own a cellphone. And despite knowing the risk, a study done by AT&T shows that about 80 percent of those cellphone owners report using them while driving. Though still underreported, cellphone usage behind the wheel continues to be an on-the-rise issue. 

The auto industry has taken notice. Some tools have already been invented to curb the effects of this rampant roadway issue, while other technologies are quickly developing from budding ideas to larger-than-life innovations.     
Here’s a look at some of the technologies developed to curtail the epidemic of distracted driving:

  • Automatic emergency braking (AEB)
    According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), many drivers involved in rear-end crashes either do not apply their brakes at all or don’t apply them enough.      
     
    A study by IIHS reported that AEB technology reduced police-reported rear-end crashes by 50 percent. It’s essentially like having another set of eyes on the roadway. Sensors on your car (cameras, radars and lasers) scan the road ahead for obstacles. If an imminent crash is detected, the system alerts the driver and begins automatically braking to reduce the severity of or prevent the collision.     

    A decade ago, AEB was a rare, futuristic feature only found in high-end vehicles. With distracted driving on the rise, this device is well on its way to becoming standard. Many popular automakers have already made AEB a standard feature in a majority of light-duty cars and trucks, and in 2023 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed a rule that, if passed, would require AEB on all new passenger cars and light trucks.
  • Lane departure warning (LDW) and lane keep support (LKS)
    Like AEB, LDW can pick up the slack for a distracted driver.  Say you’re reaching into the passenger seat for a bite of that drive-thru cheeseburger you just picked up and temporarily take your eyes off the road... LDW alerts drivers with an audio or visual alert when they unintentionally drift out of a lane without a turn signal on. 

    While LDW leaves the correction up to the driver, LKS goes a step further by taking action. If sensors detect that a car is about to unintentionally move out of its lane, LKS will correct the steering and return the vehicle to its intended path.
     
  • Eye tracking technology
    If you thought automatically-braking cars were space-age, imagine a world where cars were able to monitor your eyes and tell if you weren’t paying enough attention to the road.

    Well, that technology may not be too far off. While it is still being perfected, some car manufacturers are experimenting with eye-tracking technology that would detect when a driver’s gaze has shifted and send alerts to regain said driver’s attention.

    In March 2019, popular automaker Volvo announced a plan to equip new vehicles with interior-facing cameras designed to monitor a driver's attentiveness by tracking their eye movement. If the cameras were to detect that a driver is distracted by looking at their smartphone or not keeping their hands on the steering wheel, it would raise an alarm. The automaker officially revealed this technology in November 2022 in the Volvo EX90.

    Additionally, General Motors has recently made significant improvements to its semi-autonomous driver-assist system, Super Cruise. The system boasts head tracking software that helps make sure your eyes are on the road, and alerts you when you need to pay more attention or take back control. Super Cruise also utilizes a host of sensors, radars, and cameras to steer, accelerate, and brake automatically. The Super Cruise network currently covers over 400,000 miles, and General Motors is actively working to grow to about 750,000 miles of compatible roadways.

While self-driving cars and innovative gadgets are sure to help our growing compulsion with smartphones, they alone can’t eradicate the problem. Make Kentucky’s roads a safe place to be, and join Kentucky Farm Bureau in driving distraction-free.
 

>> In Kentucky, there’s so much to live for. Join us in driving distraction-free.
To learn more about distracted driving’s prevalence in the Bluegrass State, click here.

 

What is distracted driving?

An overview of distracted driving blog
The number of cellphones in the U.S. surpasses the country’s population. According to a study by AT&T, 80 percent of people admit to using those cellphones while driving.

You snap a picture of a cherry-red barn just off the side of the road, perfectly illuminated by a brilliant sunset. You plug the address of your next destination into the GPS as you leave your parking spot. You quickly reply to a friend’s text with a smiley face while coasting to a stop sign. Although common activities, these are all forms of distracted driving. 

The notion of distracted driving is age old — it goes as far back as the invention of the automobile itself. Since driving down the street became a "thing," there have been external distractions — like billboards or people on the side of the road. Internal distractions are nothing new, either — tuning a radio, fiddling with the air conditioner or parenting from the front seat.   

In 1983, distracted driving took on a new meaning. That year, cellphones were introduced to the American marketplace.      

Prevalence
Today, the number of cellphones in the U.S. surpasses the country’s population. And according to a study by AT&T, 80 percent of people admit to using those cellphones while driving.

The telecommunications company’s research also shows that 68 percent of smart phone users admit to reading texts, emails, or checking social media while driving, 54 percent surf the web, and 40 percent use video chat apps. This means that every person you pass on the roadway could be engaged in an entirely different world: watching a movie trailer, sending an e-mail, or video chatting with out-of-state relatives.   

Effects
Studies conducted internationally have all come to the same conclusion: Driving while using a smartphone increases the risk of injury or property damage fourfold.

Driver distractions now join alcohol and speeding as leading factors in fatal and serious injury crashes. According to the American Psychological Association, the skills of a driver using a cellphone are actually more impaired than someone who has had too much to drink.   

Legislation
States across the nation have enacted laws in an effort to keep their roads distraction-free. Text messaging while driving is banned in 49 states and D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands. Currently, talking on a hand-held cellphone while driving is banned in 27 states and D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, Northern Marina Islands, and the Virgin Islands.

In Kentucky, there is a texting ban, but drivers are still allowed to talk on a hand-held device behind the wheel. School bus drivers and drivers younger than 18 are restricted from using a cellphone in any capacity while driving. The enforcement of these laws is “primary,” meaning a police officer may pull over and ticket a driver if he or she simply observes a violation in action.

What can you do?
In a survey by the National Safety Council, 67% of respondents said they felt they were at risk because another driver was distracted by technology. Yet, only 25% said their own distraction from technology was putting others at risk. This “not me” attitude perpetuates this already prevalent problem.

Help us create a change in attitude surrounding this on-the-rise social ill. Behind the wheel, take a break from technology. Make Kentucky’s roads a safe place to be, and join Kentucky Farm Bureau in driving distraction-free.
 

>> In Kentucky, there’s so much to live for. Join us in driving distraction-free.
To learn more about distracted driving’s prevalence in the Bluegrass State, click here.

 

 

Farmer of the Year

 

Jed Clark of Graves County is the 2023 Kentucky Farm Bureau “Farmer of the Year”. Clark is pictured with his wife Chrissie and family on their farm in Graves County.

For many years, Kentucky Farm Bureau has given farmers the opportunity to gain recognition for their hard work and knowledge about agriculture through participation in our young farmer contests. Back in 2006, we began a recognition program for farmers of all ages called the Farmer of the Year award. This program rewards farmers for their commitment to excellence in the agriculture industry and their efficiency in farming practices, sound financial management, and leadership in civic organizations. The winner of this contest represents our state in the Southeastern Farmer of the Year contest, the South’s most prestigious agricultural award. 

There are many innovative and successful farmers in Kentucky and this awards program seeks to recognize them for their outstanding farming operations and leadership in our industry. We appreciate your help in recruiting farmers for this contest. If you have any questions about the Farmer of the Year contest or would like to nominate someone for this award, please do not hesitate to contact Renee Carrico, Commodity Division Director at (502) 495-5000.

The application for this year's program can be accessed by clicking the link below. Completed applications must be received online by Monday, April 15, 2024. 

2024 Kentucky Farm Bureau Farmer of the Year Application 

Candid Conversation: KFB State Women's Advisory Committee Chair Bettie Bean

Bettie Bean, Chair
KFB State Women's Advisory Committee 

Candid Conversation presents a discussion about the topical issues related to Kentucky Farm Bureau (KFB) priorities, the agricultural industry, and rural communities, in a question-and-answer format. In this edition, Bettie Bean, KFB’s State Women’s Advisory Committee Chair discusses the important work done by the committee and County Women’s Committees across the state.

KFB: For readers who may not know you, would you tell us a little about yourself?

BB: I'm a city girl who married a farm boy and one of our first dates was to the McCracken County Farm Bureau Annual Meeting, and there I met a lot of farmers. My granddad had been a farmer, with a peach and apple orchard. And while I visited the farm, I did not grow up on one. I was a teacher for many years in high school and college. We have three daughters, and we have one precious granddaughter.

KFB: How long have you been involved in Farm Bureau, and would you share some of your experiences?

BB: I have been involved in Farm Bureau for over 40 years. I have been the district chair for about six years, and the state second vice chair for three years and this is my first year as chair of the Women's Advisory Committee. I have been McCracken County women's chair for over 30 years, but I'm going to give that up and get someone younger to do that because I have plenty to do without that part of it.

Some of my experiences include traveling on many trips over the years including what used to be the National Women's Conference which is now Fusion. But one of my fondest memories came when my oldest daughter was asked to lead the Pledge of Allegiance at the National Conference. She was, I believe, a junior in high school and it was very exciting for her. We've just had a lot of wonderful experiences being involved in Farm Bureau.

KFB: What do you think are the most important projects that Farm Bureau Women's Committees are involved in?

BB: I think the most important projects deal with our youth, and our youth activities because our young people are going to be the leaders of tomorrow, and we need to get them involved so that we can continue the work that Farm Bureau has been involved in for so long. As part of our youth program, we have the county, district, and state Outstanding Youth Contest, along with our Youth Variety program at the county and district levels, and then we showcase at the state annual meeting.

Another important thing we do is being able to talk to our legislators about bills that are important to farm life and this organization.

KFB: This is a very similar question, but the role that the women's committees play directly with the organization, how important is that to the success of KFB?

BB: I think it's very important. We can meet these women at different ages, doing different things, and at different times in their lives to be involved and active during the entire time they are a part of Farm Bureau. But there are other programs very important to the organization in addition to the Women's Committees, including the Young Farm Program, and Generation Bridge. They're all important."

KFB: During your tenure as state chair, I'm sure that you've probably thought about some things that you would like to see happen or things in particular that you want to work on. Can you share some of that with us?

BB: I think the thing that I would like to work on the most because it's my passion having been a teacher, is working with our youth. They mean a lot to me. There are a lot of things pulling at our youth these days. They're working, and busy with school, and doing so many other things, and it's hard sometimes to be able to get them involved in the programs that we have in Farm Bureau, so to me, that's a very important part of what I would like to accomplish.

KFB: How vital do you think it is to bring in this new generation, whether they're in the Women's Committee or some other part of the organization?

BB: I think it's vital that our young people are involved because they're our leaders for tomorrow. There are so many other things in life they will be a part of but, we need to keep them involved so they'll know the importance of Farm Bureau and of being the voice for agriculture.

KFB: What do you think is a benefit of being involved in a county women’s committee and what makes them so successful?

BB: The state Women's Advisory Committee is made up of one woman from each of our 11 districts, and often we serve as the face of the program activities.  But the boots on the ground come at the county level and all those members who are involved in their respective women's programs and all the activities they oversee.

I think the best benefit is the comradery that we have. The majority of us are farm women, and we can sit around a table and talk about problems that we have and sometimes get an answer to those problems. And if we don't get an answer, at least we know someone else is going through the same thing.  So, to me, that's the most important thing that we have that comradery. We make friends that we have for a lifetime, and I’m excited about the newer generation getting involved.

Agriculture Exports and the Ag Trade Deficit

While much of the agricultural commodities grown in this country make their way to export markets around the world, farm families are experiencing something that has not been an issue until of late, that being an ever-growing ag trade deficit.

American Farm Bureau Federation Senior Director of Governmental Relations David Salmonsen discussed the situation in an interview with Kentucky Farm Bureau News.

KFB News: Certainly, we can say how important agricultural exports are to our farm families, but we're seeing an issue that’s a little bit new ground for us. Is that a good way to put it?

David Salmonsen: Yes, it is. We almost always have more exports by dollar value than we have imports. But the last year or so, and the forecast for this year, that's turned around in a fairly big way. Our export values have declined. We were at about $200 billion in exports two years ago, $175 billion last year, and forecast for about $170 billion this year. Whereas our imports, which we have a lot of agriculture and food imports also, we have now exceeded our export value. For 2024, agricultural imports are forecast at $200 billion. So, we've got about a $30 billion gap. Again, which is widening, and we're not really used to that.  I certainly think it's a signal for concern and something that people should be interested in trying to figure out why and also take action to get us back on the right path to increase our exports.

KFB News: What are some of the reasons we found ourselves in this position? Or is there any one thing or just a lot of different things?

David Salmonsen: As farmers everywhere know, prices for a lot of commodities are down from where they were a year or two ago. So, the export values are a little less due to that. We've also got competition. Think of our largest market for many years has been China, and at one point we were upwards of about $35 billion a year in ag exports to China. Last year we were at $30 billion. The forecast for this year is about $28.5 billion, and that's just not all because U.S. ag product prices are a little less, but a lot of it is because China's diversifying its markets.

China had the experience of going through the trade war back in 2018 and '19, and they're looking to buy from others. Also, in the last year or two, there was better weather in South America. They are  coming out of some years of drought and producing more crops, with lower prices, and China's buying more Brazilian and Argentinian soybeans and corn than they were a few years ago.

On the other side, our imports are growing. We have, for the last 15 years or so, had steady increases in imports. Of course, we always have imports of coffee and tea and tropical fruits and vegetables, and other products that we have demand for in the U.S. but don’t produce domestically.

But about the concerns come with products that compete with U.S. production. A lot of fruits and vegetables at different times of the year come in from Mexico. The challenge comes when those products come on the market at a time when they compete with us when we're also growing them. For example, think of tomatoes, or peppers, and other products from Mexico, or any products from Canada that come at the same time we're producing that are competing with us, that's part of the market. But it does raise concerns, certainly among growers who will see their prices declining in the few months of the year when they have products to sell.

So, these are issues of concern. We have, of course, a consumer and a retail food establishment that wants to provide fresh products to U.S. families year-round. We all enjoy them, but that means more imports when the U.S. can’t produce them.

We've got a lot of issues coming together. Some will say the higher value of the dollar makes our exports a little less competitive. That's part of it. But what can we do to turn this trade deficit around and expand opportunities for U.S. agricultural producers in the export markets? That's what we need to keep working on next.

KFB News: We are seeing some ag census numbers from 2022 and over the last 10 years, that indicate a drop in the number of farms. Do you think that has anything to do with the fact that the number of people that are out there farming continues to shrink?

David Salmonsen: I think that that may have an impact on it when you're talking about the amount to sell and places to sell. But then, when you have fewer farmers out there, do you have less opportunity for consumers to buy directly from farms so that they're looking more to imports than they would be locally? That could be a part of the reason why imported products may be filling a void where our U.S. production isn't as much as it was in certain parts of the country, and that certain products are not as widely available.

KFB News: Are there some things out there that we could do that could turn this thing around or at least lessen it a bit?

David Salmonsen: I think there is. Traditionally, and what has worked for all these many decades. You have to remember since the 1990s, the world opened up. You had the fall of the Soviet Union, you had China open up to the world. We had a world market that we never had before, and our U.S. ag exports, since the early 2000s have gone from about $40 billion a year to almost $200 billion a year. We just were exporting so much, and the world wanted it. The world was the market.

Now, I don't say the world is closing, but the markets are more competitive and we've seen a change in what’s referred to as the strategic environment--what's going on with China, or the war in Ukraine.

But we're strongly behind new trade agreements, trying to find new opportunities, and work with other countries to reduce their barriers to trade. Whether it’s through one-on-one trade agreements, like we've had in the past and the ones we have with South Korea, Panama, Colombia, and Australia. Of course, we had the NAFTA, which turned into the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, and lowered tariffs, and got rid of some non-tariff barriers. Those restrictive standards were negotiated away and reduced either right away or over time.

Our trade with those countries that we have agreements with has increased in a lot of areas, but especially in agricultural product exports.

But now we're in a different world it seems on trade. People are more skeptical about the benefits of trade, about the impacts it might have in the domestic U.S. market for different sectors, such as manufacturing and others. Overall, the public sentiment is less desirous of moving ahead with new trade agreements.

We need to work to turn that around. There are opportunities out there that we see. We think we could do trade agreements in the Indo-Pacific region. Now, this administration currently has the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, but it's not really a tariff-reducing standard-setting approach. It's about relationships, about working together on issues, which is fine, but it's not a traditional trade agreement that would go through Congress and be signed into law by the president. So, it's not quite as effective in trying to expand opportunities for trade for U.S. farmers and ranchers. That's what we need to get back to. It's hard work. We know trade agreements are what achieve results.

There are a lot of different ways to work to try to improve trade, to try to knock down this ag trade deficit and get us back on the positive side. But we certainly have to do the hard work, engage in the trade negotiations, and look at what we're doing with imports. I know the USDA is working on this. There's been a lot of discussion about what they can do to help agriculture in domestic markets, especially the fruit and vegetable industry to make their products more in demand across the U.S. There are a lot of different areas to work on, but I think we have to take a hard look at what we want our trade future to be and how we get to expand our export markets.

KFB News: What message would you recommend Farm Bureau members take to lawmakers and to people in regulatory positions that can help turn this thing around and move forward?

David Salmonsen: We've had a lot of chances to talk with many of our Farm Bureau members who've been coming to Washington so far this year to meet with their lawmakers, meet with the officials, and the administration. Our message has been they encourage them to engage in the discussion of why trade is important to agriculture, and how about 20 percent of everything we grow in this country finds an export market.

A lot of prices farmers receive for many of our products come from export markets. We need that outlet. We want to see all of our products go to market and receive a competitive price.

Producing for exports is good for business at home and for building strong relationships abroad. I think we need to talk about how important trade is to farmers and ranchers directly. We need to let the lawmakers, and officials at the Department of Agriculture and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative know that this is still a critical issue and an ongoing issue for U.S. farmers and ranchers. We have seen that there are benefits to trade, and the U.S. is a trading nation. We move our products around the world, we bring in products from around the world, and we want agriculture to come out on the plus side of that exchange.

KFB News: Is it conceivable to think that we could ever go back to the heyday of exporting much more than we import or is it just a different day now?

David Salmonsen: I think there are some different challenges. We always have imported, and we've always exported, but we were always doing more with exports than we were with imports. We prided ourselves on that, and we needed to do that because we're a growing agriculture industry. What we don't want is to limit our productivity. That's been a part of what we've talked about with all these issues on sustainability and climate. That’s why we have voluntary programs, and incentive-based initiatives for sustainability that don’t limit our productivity. Our approach is in stark contrast to what the European Union is doing, which is trying to limit the productivity of their farmers to achieve climate goals. And we can see from the press how they're reacting to that. Farmers there are protesting in the streets about how they don’t want to be cut back. They need to produce to stay in business.

Well, we believe sustainability for U.S. agriculture should be economic as well, and I think we need to have our export markets and trade continue to be a big part of that. I don't think that's really changed. Now, has the world changed a little bit? Are other countries maybe not as receptive as they once were? Yes, I think that's probably true. The geopolitical world has moved along. We may be in a world with some more conflict than we had 15 or 20 years ago, but that doesn't mean we don't engage in trying to do better on the economic side, and I think we can still get there. We can still have growing trade and growing export markets, which will certainly be an important part of every producer's business plan going forward. You can hopefully work forward and try to do more with markets. It's hard to plan for natural disasters, or droughts, or things like that affecting other countries, but we certainly want to work toward a place where the agriculture industry, and government agencies are working together so that we have a good trade future.

Looking to the Future Through the Next Generation

Holly Tucker of Shelby County

With nearly 300 Kentucky Farm Bureau members in attendance, this year’s state Women’s Leadership Conference provided plenty of information and updates for those attending.

There were several breakout sessions in which attendees heard from state and national Farm Bureau leaders, updates on legislative initiatives, and participated in hands-on learning activities.

And while many of them have been making this state event an annual occurrence for many years, there is a growing number of newer generations making their way to this and countless county meetings across the state. 

Holly Tucker of Shelby County fits into that "next generation" category. She and her husband James, partner with James's brother Jeremy on their Twin J Farms where they grow corn, soybeans, and wheat, along with raising cattle, a small flock of chickens, and a few dairy show cows.

While the farm and homeschooling their three children would seem to all any one person could handle, Holly finds time to be active in her local Farm Bureau serving on its board and Women’s Committee Chair.

This year’s state conference marked the fourth for her and is something she said has proven to be very valuable.

“My husband, who was already involved in Farm Bureau when we got married in 2011, told me that If you wanted something done you needed to be involved and you can't expect other people to do it," she said. “So, I began to attend meetings with him but stepped back for a few years as we began to have children. Now, however, they are older, and I've gotten more involved and really see the value the county women's committees bring to the organization and ultimately to our local communities.”

Like so many of the women farmers everywhere, they play a pivotal role on the farm, and they have brought that work ethic and a sense of dedication to Farm Bureau and all the activities in which they are involved, especially when it comes to serving others.

“Our county participated in the recent Food Checkout program held last February, at the capital, and we are also heavily involved in our county’s backpack program that helps to feed close to 400 students over the weekend.”

Educating a public far removed from the farm is also a priority for her and local committees throughout the KFB organization.

“Our county is bringing back a program called ‘Ag in You’ where local 5th-grade students will come to our fairgrounds for a day where we will showcase agriculture and teach them where their food comes from,” Holly said. “We’ll break the information down, so it is understandable and show them that some of the food is grown right here in Shelby County.”

A new generation on the farm and in Farm Bureau

Holly and her husband are first-generation farmers, working nearly 3,000 acres of owned and leased land to make their living, a feat that some may consider nearly impossible unless you really want it, she said.

“You have to want to do this and be dedicated to the farm to make it happen, but it is so hard for younger farm families with the price of land and equipment,” she said. “We were fortunate to have help and mentorship from Jack and Gwyn Trumbo (Jack Trumbo is a past KFB Farmer of the Year). I honestly don't know how a new generation can get started without some kind of help or with a mentor."

Holly admits, when younger, that marrying a farmer and homeschooling three children was not something she thought she’d be doing, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It’s a lot of work but worth it and I will let my children decide on their own if they want to farm when the time comes to make that decision,” she said. “If they want to do it, I'll stand behind them 100 percent. If they want to pursue a trade that'll be beneficial to farming, I'll support that, as well. It's whatever they want to do.”

When her 10-year-old son Raylon was asked if he wanted to farm someday, his answer was an emphatic “yes.” When asked why, he said, “I'm growing something that helps to feed other people!”

The message from KFB’s President

KFB President Eddie Melton addressed the Women’s Leadership Conference emphasizing the important role those members play and their overall importance to KFB advocacy efforts.

"The work you do at the county and state levels is critical to the success of Farm Bureau and our agriculture industry," he told the gathering. "This conference helps to provide information you need to make informed policy decisions, to network with other members, and to take away new ideas that can be implemented in your counties."

Melton also said that encouraging a new generation on the farm and in Farm Bureau with help to ensure the future success of agriculture.

“For more than 100 years, we have seen generation after generation take up farming and the mission of Farm Bureau,” he said. “It is as critical now as it has ever been to keep moving in the right direction and be strong advocates for the sake of the family farm and our rural way of life.”     

KFB President Eddie Melton: Sustaining the Future of Kentucky Farms

KFB President Eddie Melton

I’m very fortunate to have grown up on a family farm in Webster County. Our tradition, which began so many years ago, is alive and well today. With the farm being owned and operated by our family, it was a fairly easy process to take over when my time came.

We see many farms in Kentucky being passed down in much the same way from generation to generation.

That’s good in many cases, but it can still be complicated to transition farms even in the case of inheritance.

We also often hear of difficulties for those first-time farmers who don’t have access to land, and we continue to see valuable farmland being sold for non-agricultural use at prices that our farmers cannot make work.

With all that said, we’ve come to a crossroads where continued struggles in the transition process along with the ongoing loss of production farmland and family farms have to be addressed collaboratively to ensure the future of the farm.

By finding ways to transition current production farmland into the hands of new farmers, we can begin to slow the losses we have seen in the most recent agriculture census.

According to data contained in the last two ag censuses, which cover a total of 10 years, there has been a 10 percent drop in the number of Kentucky farms. In 2012, the census reported 77,064 farms in the Commonwealth. That number dwindled to 69,495 in 2022.

During that same period, there has been nearly a five percent decline in the number of farmed acres in Kentucky. While that doesn’t sound like a big percentage, when you look at the actual land area that is no longer being used for farming, it is a decrease of over 600,000 acres.

Perhaps the most telling of the census numbers, though, is total farm production costs have increased more than 28 percent over those same 10 years.

The good news is our farmers are the best producers in the world. We see increased yields of our crops regularly and have reached record farm cash receipts. And while the data before us can be daunting, one thing we can’t measure in numbers is the will of the human spirit.

Our farm families are so dedicated to their farming heritage. Enabling active and next generation farmers to carry on this historic tradition, which quite simply we all depend on, should be a priority for the entire agriculture industry, and frankly a priority for the protection of our food supply as a nation.

Kentucky Farm Bureau is announcing the creation of the Kentucky Farmland Transition Initiative (KFTI) which will help get us on a sustainable path to ensure our farmland remains in agricultural production.

There will be more information coming soon and continuously as we initiate this program.

We cannot accomplish the goal of getting more farmland in the hands of active farmers by ourselves. This work requires being willing to start these conversations and collaborate to achieve this goal. If we work together as a collective agriculture industry and bring decision-makers at all levels to the discussion table, we can make this and other efforts successful. Stay tuned!

Down the Backroads: Good Memories are a Gift

Tim Thornberry, KFB News Editor

Good memories are a gift, no snakes, please!

There are certain things or events from my childhood that I remember clearly to this day. For instance, I still have vivid images of the first time I saw a milksnake, or the Eastern Milksnake as the experts would call it.

I couldn’t have been more than four years old and was gathering pinecones near an old barn on the property where we lived.

I was stunned for a minute as it crawled up beside me, and then panic set in as I leaped to my feet and ran for the shelter of our home.

To this day, I’m still a little shaken at the site of a snake and the memory of the incident is as clear today as it was 60 years ago.

Thank goodness, most of my childhood memories are from happy occasions or events. The snake-like occurrences were few and far between.

During a recent mini-vacation, my wife and I took to the beach, we stayed in a condominium that was very near the area’s local airport and void of snakes.

But we didn’t realize how close we would be to the facility when we booked the stay. And while most folks would have been disappointed to hear the planes land and takeoff throughout the day and night, it had a special meaning to me. 

You see, there was a small airport located not far from where I grew up, and occasionally my dad would take the family over to watch the planes from an observation deck located there.

Getting in and out of an airport in the 1960s was much different than it is today, and it was as simple as opening the main lobby door and walking in.

I clearly remember standing in the warm sunshine watching each plane and wondering where they had come from or where they were going.  

I’m not sure why this particular memory is still so clear, but it must have given me a love for aviation even though I get a little nervous when flying.

However, I’m still mesmerized by the sight of planes, big and small, flying gracefully through the air. Their site always takes me back to those airport visits with my family.

During our time in the condo, I sat on the balcony for long periods just watching, listening, and remembering.

Truth be known, I could have spent the whole vacation from my “observation deck” wondering where all those planes, big and small, were going or where they had been.

While you may be wondering what snakes have to do with airplanes, other than a movie that came out several years ago, I've come to realize that each of us likely have those special memories that are as vivid today as when they occurred no matter how long ago it's been.

The vacation came to an end all too soon but recalling a happy time from long ago is a gift I won’t soon forget.

No matter where I go, I hope I always look to the sky for airplanes that come my way, of course still checking the ground for milksnakes, as I travel down the backroads.

Carrying on a Tradition

Will Beckley of Estill County

By most accounts, beef cattle production began in this country in the 1500s leading to countless generations of producers and continuing legacies that still exist today for many farm families. 

Today’s beef cattle producers can be found in all 50 states and all 120 Kentucky counties. In fact, the Commonwealth finds itself as the top cattle-producing state east of the Mississippi and, according to information from the USDA, it ranks 14th nationally in total number of cattle.

The Beckley family from Estill County is indicative of the more than 32,000 cattle producers in Kentucky creating a legacy of their own.  

l represents the third generation on the family farm. The 15-year-old high school student refers to himself as a farmer, agriculture advocate, and son to L.W. and Emily Beckley and leaves no doubt that being on the farm is a big part of the plan for his life.

“I couldn't live without being a farmer’, it's my lifestyle, and I've grown up on the farm,” he said. “I couldn't be without it, and I couldn't do anything else.”

With that mindset at such a young age, it’s apparent that Will is a natural when it comes to taking care of the more than 100 registered Polled Herefords on the farm to go along with the 220 acres of corn and soybeans.

As is the case with many young people who have grown up on a cattle farm, he is heavily involved in showing his animals, something he has been involved with for most of his life.

“I've grown up around this breed and I love them,” he said. “They're gentle, they're kindhearted, and they grow great. And the community around them is just amazing, especially the show community.”

Will said his earliest cattle-showing memory was with my dad walking me around the show ring at their county fair.

“I was probably six or seven years old, and he was leading the heifer and I was holding onto the end of the halter with a show stick,” he said. “It was one of the best heifers I ever had, and just walking around the ring with my dad, I remember it was a really good time.”

So often those who make a living on the farm are a close-knit group and Will refers to the people that are in his showing circle as family.

“We're kind of like a big family and we all take care of each other,” he said. “If somebody needs something, we'll give it to them, and if we need something, they'll do the same for us.”

Will’s most recent show occurred during the Kentucky Farm Bureau (KFB) Beef Expo where he participated in the Junior Showring. The Expo is an annual event in which he and many other young people have found success, especially with cattle that are making their ring debuts.

“The KFB Beef Expo is a great place to get young heifers and steers valuable experience in the show ring, along with their exhibitors," said KFB Livestock Marketing Specialist Donovan Pigg. “In addition to exhibiting their cattle, show attendees also have the opportunity to sell them during the auction portion of the Expo, something that is very important to all participants but especially the young people who are just getting started.” 

This year with 15 states represented and a total of 484 cattle shown at the Junior level (212 of those being Kentucky cattle), Will had a successful show especially on the sales side of the event selling two heifers well above the average for this year’s Expo.

“The Beef Expo and events like that are amazing opportunities for young people and it provides the chance to meet new people and make great connections,” Will said. “We also learn more of what this industry is about, and what leadership in this industry looks like.”

But getting to the Expo and shows like it, Will and other livestock exhibitors go through a lot of hard work during a season, both in the show ring and on the farm.

“It might seem strange to some people unfamiliar with agriculture, but farming is a way of life for me and my family,” he said. I mean, it's a struggle, yes, and there are definitely ups and downs, but the ups are amazing and it's still one of the most important things to me.”

While Will and his family cherish the “ups,” they have also experienced the difficulties. Two years ago, when historic flooding swept through many areas of the state, much of the Beckley Farm, which is bordered by the Kentucky River, was submerged under flood waters causing extensive damage to their farming infrastructure and loss of life for several of their cattle.

“They called it a 100-year flood and the river got up over a lot of our fences and in a lot of our pastures,” Will said. “It also got to some of our cattle. Sadly, we lost about 20 head.”

With mud and silt all over the farm damages mounted up not to mention the toll it took in losing their livestock. To say it was devastating is an understatement.

"It was terrible to watch and see the damage here and to our neighbors," Will said. "We tried to get to the cattle from our boats, but we just couldn't. There just really wasn't much we could do, and we tried everything."  

The destruction such an event causes is hard for anyone but for a young person, it is something that will stay with Will forever. But so will the response his family and others discovered from their farming family.

"The response was tremendous, and we were blessed for all the help and donations,” Will said. “We're very thankful for that. It's amazing to see what people will do for you and it just increases that feeling of family.”

With that disaster in the rearview mirror, it is hard to notice the damage on their farm caused by the flood. Their cattle herd has rebounded. Fences are in place once again, and show season is just beginning. 

Will looks forward to the future. He plans to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a veterinarian. The family has a practice in Estill County and his dad has served as the onsite vet for the KFB Beef Expo for the last 16 years. But he is also focused on his future on the family farm.

“We're the next generation, the future of this country, and the future of farming,” he said.

 

Comment: KFB Young Farmer Chair Mackenzie Wright

Mackenzie Wright is the chair of Kentucky Farm Bureau
Young Farmer Advisory Committee

For those of you who may not know me, I am the current chair of the Kentucky Farm Bureau State Young Farmer Advisory Committee and vice-chair of the Education Advisory Committee.

It has been a humbling experience to take on these roles and sit on the KFB Board of Directors for the next year.

But farming and Farm Bureau is not new to me. I became involved with this organization 13 years ago and currently serve in many county roles including chair of Carroll County Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer Committee, secretary of the Carroll County Cattlemen’s Association, and secretary of the Carroll County Agriculture Development Board.

From a farming perspective, I am a fifth-generation farmer having been raised on a beef cattle, hay, tobacco, and horse farm. My husband and I, along with our two young sons have a commercial Hereford cattle and hay operation in Carrollton.

In many aspects, it is a typical cattle farm indicative of the many that can be found throughout Kentucky. However, as a young farm family, we have experienced the challenges many people in our age bracket go through on the farm that perhaps more established farmers have already lived through.  

Not that they don’t have their own set of challenges. But getting a good start is so very important to a new generation whether they are taking over a family operation or starting from scratch.

I do have the benefit of working off the farm as an agriculture teacher at Carroll County High School. That particular role has given me a chance to educate students about the ag industry and the opportunities that can be found within this sector be it on the farm or in some related field.

As a teacher, I see a broad spectrum of students who are well connected to farming life, as well as those who know very little about production agriculture. I realize that not all my students will make a career choice in the ag sector, but they are all going to be consumers of the products we raise on the farm.

The more they understand all the processes that go with the industry in getting their food from the farm to their plate, the more in tune they will be with what we, as farmers do, and they can make better decisions on the food they consume.

In being a farmer, an educator, and a member of Farm Bureau, I see firsthand the importance of advocating for our industry no matter what age group you fit in. Keeping a newer generation involved in some aspect of agriculture will ensure our food supply in the future and keep our rural communities vital well into the future.

I’m very excited to have been chosen as the Young Farmer Advisory Committee Chair and it is my hope, as I go through the coming months, to do all I can to uphold the mission of the organization and make more people aware of the importance of the young farm family and how important Kentucky Farm Bureau is in their support of this industry we all depend on.

After a Productive 2023, Farm Families are Hoping for More of the Same This Year

Wally Taylor is planning for the upcoming planting season like so many farmers across the state. If all goes according to those plans, he will plant about 2,000 acres of corn and 1,950 acres of soybeans on his Daviess County operation.

"This is a family farm that originated here in Daviess County and I'm the fourth generation and we have some of the fifth generation working on the farm, as well," he said. "It's me, my brother, and my cousin who are partners. Our dads were originally the Taylor Brothers Farms, and then when they retired, we took over as Triple T Farms."

Tradition runs deep in the Taylor family, as it does for so many farm families everywhere. And it is that heritage on the farm that keeps agriculture moving forward, even when challenges arise.

“We had some good yields last year and could have had better but we had a hailstorm come through the last few days of June, about the time some of our early corn was tasseling,” Taylor said. “It was a terrible hailstorm, the worst I had ever seen and we had a yield reduction on some of our corn at harvest. But later in October, we had another hailstorm come through just as bad, and it took the same pattern as that first as we had just started thrashing beans. And that hail just shattered our beans."

While Taylor's corn crop was spared a lot of damage, the soybean crop took a harder hit. But there were some bright spots.

“We farm about 700 acres in Ohio County and luckily didn't have any hail up there and had a good bean crop,” he said. “But it was an unusual year just because of the two hailstorms.”

Being at the mercy of Mother Nature is a challenge all farmers face each year and 2024 may turn out to be no different.

Jerry Brotzge, Kentucky State Climatologist and Director of the Kentucky Climate Center and Kentucky Mesonet said our weather pattern is shifting.

"At the climate scale, we are transitioning from an El Nino to a La Nina pattern, with a La Nina pattern expected by summer," he said. "For Kentucky, a La Nina pattern means greater chances for more unsettled weather, meaning a slightly greater chance for severe weather. Impacts on spring/summer precipitation are less correlated during this transitional phase; however, once in a La Nina pattern, we typically see average to slightly above precipitation.”

Right now, the state is experiencing rather dry conditions with many streams running below-average across the state, especially across far western and south-central Kentucky, noted Brotzge. 

“However, the official NOAA outlooks are positive in this regard,” he added. “The one-month (April) outlook shows above-normal precipitation for the 2/3 southern portion of the state, and the three-month outlook (April-June) with the entirety of the state in above-normal precipitation.”

Looking out even further into the year, Brotzge said as we head into fall, official forecasts show (the state) with an equal chance for wet-dry weather, with models tending to favor above-normal precipitation chances heading into next winter (possibly as a result of the expected La Nina pattern).

For Taylor, he said it is always good to see spring roll around.

"Getting started on planting makes you feel good, but the prices are not where they need to be," he said. "We've got plenty of grain out there and markets are showing it, so it's not very promising going in."

But Taylor, like so many other producers, continues a tradition that has been handed down for generations even with the chance of a growing season that may not be as profitable as hoped for and needed.

“Of course, you never can tell as volatile as the markets are, something might happen, and they may perk up,” he said.  “We’ll stick to the crop rotation and will plant about 80 percent of our corn in April, and then we won't plant any more corn until about the fourth week of May. And if things aren't looking really great, we just may skip the corn and plant it all in beans.”

As most farmers are eternal optimists, Taylor added that a positive thing going into the planting season is that the cost of fertilizer is less than it has been in the last two to three years.

“So, that's a little bright spot for our farm,” he said.

Chad Lee, University of Kentucky (UK) Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture Food and Environment Grain Crops Extension Specialist and Director of the UK Grain and Forage Center of Excellence said he thinks this planting season will get off to a good start.

“We’ve had some good warmth and we recognize in Kentucky that we're always dependent on in-season rainfall to make a good summer crop for us, but, we should be off to a really good start, and that always makes you optimistic about where things are headed,” he said.

Last year, for the most part, Kentucky grain producers saw excellent crop yields due to rain events happening when needed but the odds of that repeating this year are not great.

However, Lee noted that it doesn't mean state producers won't be set up for another good year, especially with how technology has helped to boost production.

“I was talking to a farmer the other day who was going through numbers, seeing that over the last 30 years, corn yields have doubled, but fertilizer inputs have only gone up by about 10 percent,” he said. “What that means is, on a per bushel basis, we are extremely more efficient today than we were 30 years ago with a combination of genetics but also the management, and a better understanding of what inputs are needed. It's some of the crop protection chemicals that we have now that we didn't have before. It's precision placement of seed, precision placement of agrochemicals, and zone management that's taking place. All of those things have allowed farmers to gain tremendous efficiencies in their production systems.”

While corn and soybeans take the main stage this time of year, the success of the 2023 wheat crop brings this state to a new level, nationally, in wheat production.

"Wheat is probably one of the best-kept secrets that we do really well in this area,” Lee said. “Kentucky is a smaller state compared to some like the Great Plain states where they grow a lot of wheat. But our yields are very competitive. Especially when you factor in that a farmer here is harvesting wheat and then planting double crop beans in behind that as well."

Lee added that the state’s wheat crop is very profitable and productive, and probably one of the best things for our soils is taking wheat all the way to grain.

“It's a very good system for us, and we're fortunate that our farmers can do it and that we've got markets that will buy high-quality wheat right in the area,” he said. “Wheat for grain is the best ‘cover crop’ we have for our soils.”

Looking at this year, Lee said he feels that most farmers are going to maintain their crop rotation as best as they can.

“Right now, where we sit overall, on-farm profitability doesn't look as good for 2024, and I think growers are going to be paying attention to that and try to make determinations on what they need to have to make yield and what extra things they might cut out this year when the economics up front don't look as good,” he said. “I would suspect we'll see a little bit less effect of that on crop rotation, a little more effect of that on the input decisions that the farmer makes.”

Lee reminds producers that UK Extension agents are in every county and are ready to assist them in any way they can.

Making Efforts Now to Save Farmland for the Future

The Adams Family farms in Hardin, Hart, and LaRue Counties.

Matt and Molly Adams own a diverse farming operation in sections of Hardin, Hart, and LaRue Counties that includes row crops of corn, soybeans, and winter wheat, along with different mixes of grasses and alfalfa hay, and a beef cattle herd.

While their farm is typical of many of the family operations that can be found throughout the state, their story is somewhat atypical when referring to how their farm became their home.

“We're first-generation here and our home farm belonged to a gentleman I considered a second grandpa to me,” Matt said. “He kind of got me started farming and I partnered with him when I was in high school and college. When he passed away, right before I graduated from Western Kentucky University, I was able to buy the farm and have been here since.”

Molly said that giving Matt a chance to take over the farm, was a Godsend.

“When [the farmer] passed away, he had many family members who could have had the opportunity to take the farm themselves or sell it, but he wanted to give Matt a chance,” she said. “And all we were riding on was that chance.”

Matt said when it comes to young farm families, sometimes all they need is an opportunity to get started.

“We always say we were never really given anything in this operation other than just an opportunity, and that's very important, especially for first-generation and even previous generations to come back to the farm,” he said.

The Adamses' story could be considered the exception as opposed to the rule when it comes to new farmers taking over an existing operation or starting from scratch.

Because of a steady decline in the number of farms in this state and a decrease in farmed acreage over the last several years, Kentucky Farm Bureau (KFB) is launching the Kentucky Farmland Transition Initiative (KFTI) to determine ways to help farmers transition acreage to new generations of farmers, connect assistance providers during that process, and develop policy that will help keep production agriculture at the forefront of farmland transition.

KFB President Eddie Melton said the state's farm families are looking for ways to keep farmland in active production, and this initiative will help support them in that goal.

“With the loss of land, we are seeing in the Commonwealth, now is the time to start these conversations and find ways to get these families connected to the resources they need,” Melton continued. “There are already several great resources available in Kentucky that we want to make sure people know about, but, through this Initiative, we will also engage directly with those involved in transition planning to see what else is needed and could be developed.”

Aleta Botts, the KFTI Project Coordinator, is helping KFB Launch this effort. She said the initiative is critical to a successful future for farm families and Kentucky’s rural communities.

“When farmland goes out of production, it just doesn’t come back,” she said. “Or if farmland is bought by investors outside of the rural community of which it is a part, the farmers, who have lived there, are no longer around to be a vital part of that community. If we care about that, we have to make sure that farm families have access to the tools they need to plan a better outcome not just for their farm, but for the benefit of the places they call home.”

The KFTI launches with three main objectives: 1) increase public education about and involvement in farmland transition; 2) gather and provide technical assistance and localized resources to assist families who desire to transition farmland; and 3) pursue state and federal policy development that will help keep production agriculture at the forefront of farmland transition and ease common burdens associated with that process.

The recently released USDA Census of Agriculture highlights the challenge. Kentucky saw the loss of 17,000 farms and 1.4 million acres of farmland in the last 20 years. With additional resources and planning, the expectations of the KFTI is that more families will be able to put in place plans to keep farmland in active production and keep farmers at the center of that effort.

The University of Kentucky Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment (UKMGCAFE) and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) are part of the network of ag organizations working with KFB to move the initiative forward.

UKMGCAFE Dean Nancy Cox said recognizing the need to keep valuable farmland in agricultural production is a must for generations to come whether they are farmers or not.

“It is imperative that we keep our farms across this state and throughout the country sustainable for farmers of the future, who will face increasing competition for land and increasing scrutiny from consumers,” she said. “Making the transition of farmland from one owner to the next deserves a lot of study to support both farm families and consumers.”

KDA Commissioner Jonathan Shell said, as a fifth-generation farmer, he understands the need to keep existing farmland in production now to guarantee there will be farms for the future.

“For me, there was never a doubt that I wanted to continue the farming tradition my ancestors began so many years ago,” he said. “I know there are countless individuals and families who want the same. The more we can do now to help them make their wishes a reality, the better chance we have of saving our farmland for generations to come.”

Melton added that it will take a collaborative effort by KFTI network organizations to move this initiative forward.

“We recognize that our objectives for this initiative will not be reached overnight but rather by continued educational processes, the utilization of technical assistance, and the development of policy at all levels,” he said. “Having organizations like UK and KDA on board from the very beginning will help ensure that success can indeed be achieved by working together for a common goal.” 

Finding that special mentor proved to be the catalyst that began a new tradition for the Adamses and is but one of many ways to be explored as part of this initiative, Melton emphasized.   

“We want more success stories such as Matt and Molly Adams so we must do all we can to find and develop ways to make the transition of farmland much less an ordeal and more like an opportunity,” he said. “In doing so, it will ultimately encourage new farmers to remain on, or come to a farming operation they can one day hand off to their next generation.”

For more information, go to the KFTI website at kyfarmlandtransition.com.

Kentucky Farm Bureau Launches Kentucky Farmland Transition Initiative to Address Loss of Farm Acreage Across the State

Today, Kentucky Farm Bureau (KFB) announced the launch of its new Kentucky Farmland Transition Initiative (KFTI). The KFTI is a strategic project focused on helping farm families find ways to keep their acreage in active agricultural production as they consider the future of that land.

The need for efforts like the KFTI increases each year, but that importance was highlighted when the recently released 2022 USDA Census of Agriculture revealed that Kentucky lost 17,000 farms and 1.4 million acres of farmland over the last 20 years.

KFB has also created an online resource through the KFTI to help farm families navigate the land ownership transition process. The new website – kyfarmlandtransition.com – will connect farmers to a variety of resources and assistance providers who make the transition more understandable and achievable.

Eddie Melton, President, Kentucky Farm Bureau said Kentucky’s farm families are looking for ways to keep farmland in active production, and this Initiative will help support them in that goal.

“With the loss of land we are seeing in the Commonwealth, now is the time to start these conversations and find ways to get these families connected to the resources they need,” Melton continued. “There are already several great resources available in Kentucky that we want to make sure people know about, but, through this Initiative, we will also engage directly with those involved in transition planning to see what else is needed and could be developed.”

The KFTI launches with three main objectives: 1) increase public education about and involvement in farmland transition; 2) gather and provide technical assistance and localized resources to assist families who desire to transition farmland; and 3) pursue state and federal policy development that will help keep production agriculture at the forefront of farmland transition and ease common burdens associated with that process.

Increasing awareness of the shrinking acreage devoted to agriculture in Kentucky is a key component to improving conditions for farmland transition. As such, the KFTI website will house numerous local resources on the subject and give Kentuckians a way to provide feedback about the growing needs of the initiative itself. Stories of new farm ownership and transitioning challenges will be shared online to help steer farm families through the process, and other organizations and businesses are invited to join the KFTI Network to share their expertise, upcoming events, and resources related to farmland transition planning.

The KFTI website will connect visitors to technical assistance and information provided by attorneys, CPAs, and others working with farmers on land ownership changes. This online resource will grow as Kentucky farm families use the site to submit their thoughts on further programs and assistance needed so the KFTI Network can assess and locate additional resources to meet those needs.

Knowing that governmental support is crucial to make this initiative successful, the KFTI will review state and federal policies currently in place and make proposals for new policies related to farm transitions where needed. Preserving family farm ownership, today and into the future, is critical to the KFTI mission, and effective policy development will help protect this time-honored and essential industry.

Over the next several months, the KFTI will continue to expand its library of resources, allowing more Kentucky families to create plans that keep farmland in active production and placing agriculture on the forefront of lawmakers’ minds. To learn more about the Kentucky Farmland Transition Initiative or to join the effort, go to kyfarmlandtransition.com.