Kentucky dairy, other farms look to the future
FRANKFORT — Millions of gallons of milk—including milk produced in Kentucky—will be purchased by the federal government to benefit U.S. dairy farmers and food banks, state lawmakers heard today.
Tobacco Settlement Agreement Fund Oversight Committee Co-Chair Myron Dossett, R-Pembroke, said 56 truckloads of milk containing 2.3 million gallons of milk will be hauled through Kentucky as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) $50 million purchase of 11-13 million gallons from dairy farmers nationwide. All of the milk purchased by the USDA will be distributed to food banks across the country, including some in Kentucky.
“That’s going to be beneficial not only to our farmers, but also to those people who desperately need the services of the food bank. So we’re very happy on that right there,” said Dossett.
Kentucky Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy Executive Director Warren Beeler told the committee that the USDA purchase is welcome news to Kentucky dairies that he said have been hard hit by milk quotas in other countries, namely Canada.
“They have what we need. They have a quota-based system where they can control how much milk they produce,” said Beeler, adding that Kentucky may lose 75 dairies this year due to economic pressures. “When consumption’s going down and production’s going up, you’re going the wrong direction … and that’s what happened to us. So, we’re thankful for anything the federal folks can do to help.”
Kentucky dairies are also helping themselves by expanding the products they offer. In Todd County, Dossett said some dairy farmers are looking at opening a cheese plant sourced by the milk that the farmers produce.
Beeler applauded that kind of initiative, saying his agency is currently talking with two or three different groups with similar plans.
“You go to a commodity that’s got some shelf life to it, and you’ve also got something you can price yourself – that’s not priced for you,” he said.
Exhibits focused on agricultural innovation at this year’s recently-concluded Kentucky State Fair also received praise as the committee discussed AgLand – a new fair exhibit highlighting both the past and high-tech future of Kentucky farming. Beeler said he was more proud of the exhibit than of any event in his “40 some-odd years of going to the state fair.”
AgLand, Beeler said, showed fairgoers that farming is a modern practice, using modern technologies like soil testing, solar energy and GPS-controlled equipment.
“If what we’ve got to do is produce 70 percent more by 2050 to feed 9 billion people (worldwide) then everything we do – from a technology, from a science standpoint – has to be cutting edge,” said Beeler. “We have such a disconnect. People think we’re still following a mule. This is science - this is technology.”