Kentucky agriculture has evolved tremendously over the past 10 years. The influx of tobacco settlement dollars is allowing producers to upgrade genetics, forages, and facilities and try new ventures. The Kentucky beef industry is a leader in this progress. Today, we are performing the duties of environmental stewardship and animal care better than ever. The problem we have is that being great at farming does not translate into the public being aware and ultimately supportive of this agriculture evolution.
If what we hear is true, and the world population could reach 8-9 billion by 2050, then we will need to produce 100 percent more food in next 40 years just to keep up. Recent advancements in science and engineering are making farming efficient, green, and sustainable. Agriculture is adjusting well to production pressures and is doing more with less while also improving the state of the environment and animal comfort. Unfortunately, these amazing improvements go mostly unnoticed by the public. Our critics seem to be better at pushing misinformation, and we end up with more government restrictions falsely labeled under “fairness” or “consumer protection.” These critics affect the way we farm not because they are correct but because they are loud.
We at the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, in cooperation with UK extension, Farm Bureau, our commodity groups, and all other agriculture groups, must become more vocal and better marketers for the agriculture community. We must better explain the efficiencies of precision farming, the use of GPS to maximize crop fertilization, and the use of electronic tags for quick and accurate animal identification. The improvements in genetic and nutritional segments of beef production and the value of beef as a healthy choice must be clarified to the non-agriculture community.
Fifteen Kentucky Department of Agriculture employees from the Office of Marketing and Animal Health just completed a training program to develop speakers for agriculture entitled “Farmers Care.” The Kentucky Livestock Coalition, which is funded by commodity groups, has taken the lead in recruiting and training these speakers. This effort received extraordinary support from the Kentucky Soybean Board under the leadership of Program Director Brent Burchett. The Kentucky Beef Councilis also spearheading an excellent communications effort. The KBC just released a presentation entitled “The Beef Community” that is a window to beef production, beef families, and the product itself. This presentation must be shared with any and all groups that will listen. But at the end of the day, farmers and their families engaged in production are the most knowledgeable and passionate speakers for the agriculture community. We have the voices; we just need to find the right venues to reach the most Kentuckians.
I encourage you to work with the Department of Agriculture, the KBC, and our farm families as we carry our message to the public. We know how much progress we have made on the farm. It’s time to tell the rest of the Commonwealth that it is a new day for agriculture in Kentucky!