We tapped the minds of four of Kentucky’s top agricultural experts to share their industry perspective and observations on how farming has changed. 

Here’s our panel of experts:

Whether you’re in the industry or a friend of the farm, we hope this insightful commentary sheds some light on the challenges and opportunities Kentucky farmers face today.

Here’s the question we posed to our experts: What’s the biggest progression in farming that you’ve seen over the past couple of years?

kentucky farming

Woods

“Agriculture is a dynamic, exciting, and in some cases a little bit scary industry to be in as a farmer.  This isn’t my grandfather’s fruit farm from when I was a kid.  From amazing technology, explosion in data and applications in farm management/marketing, to the concentration of big ag input suppliers and retailers, these changes have all been profound.

However, I would suggest a major driver has been the growth in consumer demand for engaging with the value choices related to food production – wanting to know who produced it, how was it produced, and where was it produced.  And because these things increasingly matter, farmers need to produce and market in a way that better engages the end consumer.”

Tim Woods, Extension Professor
Dept. of Agricultural Economics, University of Kentucky

kentucky farming

Botts

“Farmers are embracing new technology and new marketing methods at a higher rate. The technology is allowing them to know more about their farming operation and fine-tune their systems to grow with greater efficiency.  The new marketing approaches are helping them reach more customers and teach those customers about agriculture, a critical need as more individuals in our society have no connection to farms and farmers.”   

Aleta Botts, Executive Director
Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development (KCARD)

kentucky farming

Snell

“While U.S. agriculture has continued to discuss and debate the science behind issues such as GMOs, organic, and antibiotic use, U.S. farmers know that their market is consumer-driven. This diversity of consumer preferences (whether based on science or not) creates new marketing opportunities and profit potential much greater than producing for a conventional/homogenous marketplace.”

Will Snell, Extension Professor
Dept. of Agricultural Economics, University of Kentucky

“To quote a military term, the Kentucky farmer has learned to improvise, adapt and overcome. Since the post tobacco buyout era, Kentucky farmers have been hard at work to replace lost tobacco income with three options of: improving efficiencies, expanding current operation, or diversifying into others enterprises.

Another concern is capital access for the next generation of farmers. In addition to the Cooperative Extension Service and technology that is growing exponentially, there is financial and technical assistance available at unprecedented levels from Federal and State government and entities funded with government money.  

kentucky farming

McCloskey

For example, USDA is providing financial assistance for energy efficient projects. The Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund (KADF) helps fund farmers wanting to develop direct to consumer marketing programs, in addition to cost sharing money for energy projects, production cost and capital improvements.

Expanding or beginning a farm operation requires capital. Today, farmers have access to low interest loans with USDA Farm Service Agency and the KADF Kentucky Agricultural Finance Corporation (KAFC) working with their local lender. Approximately 20% of the poultry farmers have a KAFC loan in partnership with their local lender.      

Expanding current operations requires access to markets. Kentucky corn producers were able to grow more corn because a Kentucky farmer-owned cooperative expanded into ethanol production with financial assistance from the KADF.  This past year the coop paid out $38 million in dividends which was over and above the market price for corn.  

For new business ventures in need of a business plan, the Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development is available at no cost compliments of USDA and KADF. Based on these examples it is good time to be a Kentucky Farmer.”            

Bill McCloskey, Deputy Executive Director
Kentucky Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy

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As a consumer, what positive changes have you seen in farming? We’d love to hear from you. Simply, leave a comment below. 

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