Governor Steve Beshear joined the Kentucky Agriculture Council (KAC) to unveil its five-year strategic plan for agriculture -- Connecting: Strategies to Better Kentucky's Agricultural Economy and Rural Communities (2013-2018) -- at a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda.
"This strategic plan is not just about improving our farms and helping our farmers; it's about strengthening their place in our communities, improving quality of life and economic vitality across Kentucky," said Gov. Beshear. "This plan for Kentucky's agriculture community is a strong and thoughtful document that, when implemented, will help secure a bright future for our farm families."
As the steward of strategic planning for Kentucky, KAC established a task force on the future of agriculture with representatives from its 80-plus member organizations with three co-chairs: Keith Rogers, 4-H Foundation; Todd Clark, Council for Burley Tobacco; and Sharon Furches, Kentucky Women in Agriculture.
For more than a year, KAC's task force met and held public forums to gather input from across the Commonwealth to guide the strategic plan. The 2013-2018 strategic plan is a follow-up to the 2007-2012 plan, which was presented to Gov. Beshear early in his first term. Many of the action items from the earlier plan have been accomplished.
"The Kentucky Ag Council was very gratified by the input to this plan that we received from countless producers and agricultural leaders, who took time to attend one of the seven public forums we held all across the state," said Dan Flanagan, KAC Chairman for 2012. "And on a personal note, as someone who is deeply involved in higher education, I was thrilled to see so many young and first-time farmers involved in the planning process. That led to our decision to focus attention on "next generation farmers'."
The plan includes seven core strategies with recommended actions to drive Kentucky's progress:
Next Generation Farming
Make farming attractive and accessible to the next generation of both full-time and part-time aspirants, including those from diverse, non-traditional groups including retirees, women, minorities and urban dwellers.
New Markets Identification & Development
Increase on-farm incomes and strengthen economic vitality of rural areas through continuous identification and development of new market opportunities.
Regional Agricultural & Rural Community Development
Encourage region-specific agricultural development projects and initiatives through funding from the Agricultural Development Board.
Promote, advocate for and expand the number of schools offering Agricultural Education programs by linking the contribution of Agricultural Education to "Unbridled Learning" College & Career Readiness For All, Kentucky's new accountability model.
Consumer Education & Outreach
Engage with Kentucky consumers to increase their trust in the state's Agricultural producers & products. Build consumer appreciation of the benefits of agriculture economically to the state as a whole and at the individual county level, and in terms of its role in ensuring the sustainability of Kentucky's culture and a rural lifestyle.
Government Policies, Initiatives & Programs
Develop policies and funding streams designed to support the overall health (economic & environmental) of farms in Kentucky, as well as lead to increased net farm income. Ensure that all Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund (KADF) proceeds are invested with a purpose of improving the net farm income.
Policy-Maker Education & Outreach
Ensure all legislators and policy-makers at local, state and national levels understand the economic and community impact of Kentucky's agricultural sector -- "an implementation plan for the Strategic Plan."
For more information about the Kentucky Agricultural Council or to view the new strategic plan for Kentucky agriculture - Connecting: Strategies to Better Kentucky's Agricultural Economy and Rural Communities (2013-2018) - visit www.kyagcouncil.org.