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News - Goals for KY ag shared at KFB's “Measure the Candidates” forum

  • October 13, 2011

Kentucky Farm Bureau’s Board of Directors met today with candidates for Agriculture Commissioner to discuss positions on issues affecting the state’s agriculture industry.

Republican James R. Comer and Democrat Bob Farmer fielded questions from the KFB leaders and explained their priorities during the “Measure the Candidates” meeting at the farm organization’s state office.

KFB President Mark Haney, who served as moderator, said the meeting gave the organization’s leadership an opportunity to get a clear understanding of the candidates’ priorities. The KFB Directors held a similar meeting with the primary campaign candidates back in April.

Farmer and Comer made opening and closing statements plus responded to questions relative to their vision for the Department of Agriculture and Kentucky agriculture.

Comer, a Monroe County farmer and six-term State Representative, asserted that he had the superior qualifications for the position. “I believe my qualifications, my experience working with Farm Bureau over the years, makes me far and away the best candidate.”

Farmer, a Louisville businessman, argued that his experience in marketing and business management makes him a better choice. “It’s not about who’s the best farmer; it’s about who’s best for the farmers,” he said in his opening remarks.

While responding to a question about rural and market development, Farmer cited what he described as his “primary goals.”

“Number one is to improve the quality of life in rural Kentucky. Number two is to improve net farm income,” Farmer said.

Comer, meanwhile, stressed animal disease control and economic development as high priorities. “I believe we should work to expand markets for Kentucky farm products,” he said, “and focus on having more food processors around the state – creating more use for our farm commodities and more jobs for Kentuckians.”

Both candidates praised the work of the State Veterinarian’s Office and voiced strong support for a new Breathitt Veterinary Center in Hopkinsville. They also lauded the Kentucky Proud marketing program and the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board which oversees the state’s agricultural development initiative fueled by tobacco settlement funds. (The Agriculture Commissioner is chairman of that board, as well as the Kentucky Agricultural Finance Corporation.)

Farmer said he would expand the Kentucky Proud program “to beyond our borders” plus create a comprehensive “worldwide” marketing strategy. Comer described the program as “a real success” but said he wants to expand it to include more organic products plus recertify all participants to ensure they meet all program guidelines for using Kentucky farm commodities.

Among other topics discussed:

Farmer said he would establish four regional offices to work on economic development projects and to provide better service.

Comer promised the KFB leaders that he would have a close and effective relationship with the General Assembly that would benefit all of agriculture.

Farmer said would restructure many facets of the department to eliminate waste, but not at the expense of the consumer protection programs that involve “about 65 percent of the employees.”

Noting that he has experience exporting cattle, Comer vowed to look at ways to boost export markets for Kentucky tobacco. He also promised to “focus rural development efforts on agriculture.”

In his closing remarks Comer claimed that during the course of “a tough campaign” he has overcome a huge deficit in the polling. He told the KFB Directors that “this is an opportunity to elect a commissioner who on Day One will make a difference.”

In his closing, Farmer quickly noted that this is his first campaign for a political office. “I simply want to give back – to help rural people by using my skills and experience,” he explained. “This is about who can manage the department best; and do the marketing work.”

Both candidates were also asked to complete a questionnaire on several different agricultural issues facing the state. Responses will be returned to KFB by Monday, October 24, and placed on the organization’s web site, kyfb.com, for public voter review.

To view Kentucky Farm Bureau’s complete video coverage of the forum, click here.


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