Ag Council News

  • 14 Jun 2024 9:54 AM | Jennifer Elwell (Administrator)

    Interim Joint Committee on Agriculture Asked for Additional Input

    KAC Chair Tony Brannon welcomes the crowd to the June 5 meeting in Lexington. 

    The Kentucky Agricultural Council (KAC) met on June 5 in Lexington to continue work on the Strategic Roadmap for Kentucky Agriculture, where about 70 stakeholders continued to refine and add to the draft tactics presented. Many of those stakeholders were new to the process, moving the total participation to about 250 individuals. 

    "This was another great day of construction by KAC members on the Strategic Roadmap,” remarked Dr. Tony Brannon, KAC chair. “There was great input, great ideas, and great discussion from great leaders planning our work. Let's get to work, Kentucky agriculture!" 

    Roadmap contributors refined tactics for these nine strategies identified by stakeholder focus groups and developed by working groups of industry professionals:

    1. Help protect farm transitions & sustain Kentucky farmlands.
    2. Prioritize workforce development.
    3. Engage agriculture in Kentucky’s economic development discussions.
    4. Foster more supply chain coordination to improve market access.
    5. Continue diversification and innovation across farm, food, fuel, & fiber.
    6. Develop agriculture’s partnerships in the food and health space.
    7. Create more value-added markets across the Commonwealth.
    8. Grow collaboration, coordination, and communications within Kentucky ag.
    9. Build understanding around farm, food, fuel, and fiber amongst all Kentuckians.

    "The leaders of Kentucky agriculture involved in the strategic roadmap have focused on the big picture to serve farm, food, fuel, and fiber partners across the state,” noted Michele Payn of Cause Matters Corp., who has facilitated the process. “I’ve been impressed with their concern for the future and ideas to creatively address challenges to help build a stronger agriculture. The goal of the strategic roadmap is to be a living, breathing document that is updated as tactics are delivered."

    Payn will follow up with the strategy leads, and additional conversations will occur before another in-person meeting on August 15. The plan will be released on November 14-15 at the Kentucky Agricultural Summit in Louisville. However, many of KAC’s member organizations are already working on the strategies and tactics presented. 

    “I believe this exercise was a reminder of how urgent many of the issues facing Kentucky agriculture really are,” said Jennifer Elwell, administrator of KAC and executive director of the Kentucky Agriculture and Environment in the Classroom. “Many of us found ways we can contribute and have already rolled up our sleeves to get to work.”

    Examples of immediate actions that are underway or planned in the next few months include:

    • Work with partners such as the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and the University of Kentucky on agriculture's economic multiplier. 
    • Conduct a consumer survey about what they want to learn about Kentucky agriculture.
    • Continue program development to address farmers' mental and physical health.
    • Assist young farmers and protect farmland across Kentucky.
    • Establish protocol and information for biosecurity and natural disasters Work on connections between the supply chain and Kentucky’s farm, fuel, food, and fiber products.
    • Provide insight on agriculture's workforce needs to educational partners. 

    Tod Griffin, Michele Payn, and Jennifer Elwell spoke to the Interim Joint Committee on Agriculture in Frankfort, Ky. on June 6. 

    On June 6, Elwell, Payn, and KAC executive committee member Tod Griffin testified to the Interim Joint Committee on Agriculture in Frankfort on the Strategic Roadmap, sharing the process, themes, and tactics. House and Senate members were encouraged to ask questions and share insights on what was important to them. Those notes will be shared with each working group to see how they may be included in the roadmap.

    "We thank Chairman Heath and the committee members for the opportunity to report on the plan's progress,” said Griffin, who is also executive director of the Agribusiness Association of Kentucky.  “It's imperative that the members of the General Assembly know what key policy changes are needed to make sure Kentucky agriculture and rural communities remain vibrant and relevant to our citizens."

    Strategic Roadmap for Kentucky Agriculture and the Kentucky Agricultural Summit updates can be found on the KAC website at www.kyagcouncil.org.

  • 15 May 2024 11:26 AM | Jennifer Elwell (Administrator)

    Three finalists have been selected for the 2024 Kentucky Leopold Conservation Award®.

    The award honors farmers and forestland owners who go above and beyond in their management of soil health, water quality and wildlife habitat on working land.

    Named in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, this award recognizes landowners who inspire others with their dedication to environmental improvement. In his influential 1949 book, A Sand County Almanac, Leopold called for “a land ethic,” an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage.

    Sand County Foundation and national sponsor American Farmland Trust present the Leopold Conservation Award to private landowners in 27 states. In Kentucky, the $10,000 award is presented with Kentucky Agricultural Council and the Kentucky Association of Conservation Districts.

    The finalists are:

    Steve and Melanie Kelley of Bardwell in Carlisle County: The Kelleys utilize no-till practices and plant cover crops to conserve soil and moisture. This enhances the soil for the next year’s crop. Their farm features 48 acres of filter strips, and 17 acres of grassed waterways and rock chutes to mitigate erosion. Solar panels produce electricity and provide the farm with another source of income. Wildlife and pollinator-friendly habitat has been established on 800 acres.

    John and Randy Seymour of Upton in Hart County: The Seymours have actively managed their woodland for timber and wildlife habitat since the 1970s. Overtime they converted a tobacco, hay, and beef cattle farm into native seed production. In addition to a 100-acre savanna restoration they efforts protect a large cave that hosts thousands of gray bats in their breeding season. By creating the Roundstone Native Seed Company they provide the means for others to establish native grass and wildflower habitats.


    Michael W. Wilson of Lawrenceburg in Anderson County: Michael Wilson implements rotational grazing in the summer and bale grazing in the winter to reduce soil erosion, prevent overgrazing, recycle nutrients, and increase plant regrowth and biodiversity. By equipping soil with greater organic matter, he’s making it more resilient to drought and extreme rainfall events. Michael served as chairman of the Anderson County Conservation District.

    Kentucky farmland and forestland owners were encouraged to apply, or be nominated, for the award. An independent panel of Kentucky agricultural and conservation leaders reviewed the applications.

    The award recipient will be recognized at the Kentucky Association of Conservation Districts’ Annual Convention in July.

    “The Kentucky Agricultural Council is once again honored to recognize private landowners across the state who practice exceptional stewardship and conservation practices,” said Dr. Tony Brannon, Kentucky Agricultural Council Chair. “Kentucky farmers have for many years been innovators in protecting our natural resources to ensure the long-term success of food and fiber production.”

    “KACD and conservation districts promote the sound management of all our natural resources, and we are excited to recognize these well deserving landowners in Kentucky,” said Allan Bryant, Kentucky Association of Conservation Districts President. “The Association and conservation districts work daily to assist private landowners in their efforts to adopt sound soil and water conservation practices on their land that benefit us all.”

    “As the national sponsor for Sand County Foundation’s Leopold Conservation Award, American Farmland Trust celebrates the hard work and dedication of the Kentucky award finalists,” said John Piotti, AFT President and CEO. “At AFT we believe that conservation in agriculture requires a focus on the land, the practices and the people and this award recognizes the integral role of all three.”

    “These award finalists are examples of how Aldo Leopold’s land ethic is alive and well today. Their dedication to conservation shows how individuals can improve the health of the land while producing food and fiber,” said Kevin McAleese, Sand County Foundation President and CEO.

    Last year’s award recipient was Veatch Farms of Campbellsville in Marion County.

    The Kentucky Leopold Conservation Award is made possible thanks to the generous support and partnership of American Farmland Trust, Kentucky Agricultural Council, Kentucky Association of Conservation Districts, Sand County Foundation, Kentucky Farm Bureau Federation, U.S Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, AgriBusiness Association of Kentucky, Farm Credit Mid-America, Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association, Kentucky Corn Growers Association, Kentucky Department of Agriculture, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, Kentucky Pork Producers, Kentucky Soybean Promotion Board, Kentucky Tree Farm Committee, Kentucky Woodland Owner’s Association, and University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

    For more information on the award, visit www.leopoldconservationaward.org.


  • 6 May 2024 9:51 AM | Jennifer Elwell (Administrator)

    Nine working groups, involving over 200 leaders from various sectors of Kentucky agriculture, are actively shaping the future of our industry. This collaborative effort, part of the Strategic Roadmap for Kentucky Agriculture: 2025-2030, is spearheaded by the Kentucky Agriculture Council and will be unveiled this November. The Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, and Kentucky State University have all made significant investments in this endeavor, underscoring the importance of their collective vision.

    Themes generated by 120 participants in the initial focus groups include:

    1. Help protect farm transitions and sustain Kentucky farmlands.
    2. Prioritize workforce development.
    3. Engage agriculture in Kentucky’s economic development discussions.
    4. Foster more supply chain coordination to improve market access.
    5. Continue diversification and innovation across farm, food, fuel, & fiber.
    6. Develop agriculture partnerships in the food and health space.
    7. Create more value-added markets across the Commonwealth.
    8. Grow collaboration, coordination, and communications within Kentucky agriculture.
    9. Build understanding around farming and food amongst all Kentuckians.

    The Kentucky Agricultural Council (KAC) represents Kentucky’s agricultural community and facilitates discussions to develop the KAC membership. Working groups are meeting to develop and refine measurable and actionable tactics to help guide the future of agriculture across the Commonwealth. Discussions will continue through August; KAC stakeholders will meet in person on June 5 in Lexington to further refine the developed tactics and identify partners involved in each strategy.

    "The Kentucky Agricultural Council has long served Kentucky agriculture as an umbrella organization of organizations heavily vested in coordination and strategic planning activities,” said Dr. Tony Brannon, KAC chair and administrator of the WAVE River Counties Ag Initiative. “It has been said that if you don't know where you are heading, any road will get you there. The current 'Strategic Roadmap' being developed by leaders in Kentucky agriculture is a great effort to plan a route to continue building our industry. The effort is to help us fully uncover our needs and options and set priorities for them through tactics and actions.  As I've always said, 'Plan your Work, then Work your Plan.’ Let's get to work, Kentucky Agriculture!"

    Michele Payn of Cause Matters, Corp., has been facilitating the strategic roadmap with assistance from Dr. Kristie Guffey of Murray State University Hutson School of Agriculture. Payn's approach has been to engage diverse stakeholders, from farmers and agribusiness professionals to nutritionists and processors. She asked what was missing from Kentucky agriculture and how to leverage assets to stand out in the next ten years.

    Brannon is thankful for the agriculture community's tremendous support and participation in this process. Here's what participants had to say.

    "Kentucky's agricultural and rural communities are a vital economic engine for the commonwealth and bring a valued way of life for so many Kentuckians," said Tod Griffin, executive director of the Agribusiness Association of Kentucky and KAC treasurer.  "The strategic roadmap is the culmination of the different ideas and priorities of Kentucky's agricultural leaders and sets the direction for the continued growth and success of one of Kentucky's most important sectors in our economy."

    “Thanks to superior leadership, the Kentucky ag economy has thrived over the past couple of decades despite facing the greatest structural change of any state brought about by a changing tobacco economy,” remarked Dr. Will Snell, University of Kentucky agricultural economist. “Our farm economy and rural communities face a lot of headwinds in the coming years, but this plan will help keep our momentum moving forward.”

    Any Kentucky agriculture stakeholder interested in joining the work should contact KAC executive secretary Jennifer Elwell at 855-921-2625 or kyagcouncil@gmail.com 

    About the Kentucky Agricultural Council

    Established in the late 1970s, the Kentucky Agricultural Council is a collaborative group of organizations that promotes, educates, and grows agriculture in the Commonwealth.

    In 2006, the Kentucky Agricultural Council responded to Governor Ernie Fletcher’s call and assumed a leadership role in planning to help increase net farm income and improve the quality of life in rural Kentucky. This resulted in the publication of A Pathway for Kentucky's Agriculture and its Rural Communities: 2007 to 2012 Strategic Plan. A second plan followed for 2013-2018: Connecting Strategies to Better Kentucky’s Agricultural Economy and Rural Communities.

    Learn more at www.kyagcouncil.org

  • 22 Mar 2024 3:31 PM | Jennifer Elwell (Administrator)

    The Kentucky Agricultural Council works on behalf of Kentucky’s agricultural community and is facilitating discussion to develop the next Strategic Roadmap for Kentucky Agriculture: 2025-2030, which will be released this November. KAC membership, the Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, and Kentucky State University have invested in the effort.

    Michele Payn of Cause Matters, Corp., has been facilitating the current process with assistance from Dr. Kristie Guffey of Murray State. From December to early February, they engaged more than 120 stakeholders to discover what was missing for Kentucky agriculture and how it would stand out in the next ten years.

    Nine themes emerged from the first focus groups, and working groups of experts, farmers, and agrifood leaders are meeting to develop measurable and actionable tactics for each:

    1. Help protect farm transitions and sustain Kentucky farmlands.
    2. Prioritize workforce development.
    3. Engage agriculture in Kentucky’s economic development discussions.
    4. Foster more supply chain coordination to improve market access.
    5. Continue diversification and innovation across farm, food, fuel, & fiber.
    6. Develop agriculture’s partnerships in the food and health space.
    7. Create more value-added markets across the Commonwealth.
    8. Grow collaboration, coordination, and communications within Kentucky agriculture.
    9. Build understanding around farm and food amongst all Kentuckians.

    Working group discussions will continue through May. Anyone interested in participating in the groups or reviewing and responding to the generated ideas should contact KAC executive secretary Jennifer Elwell at kyagcouncil@gmail.com. Follow the QR code link at left to learn more about the process.

    Established in the late 1970s, the Kentucky Agricultural Council is a collaborative group of organizations working to promote, educate, and grow agriculture in the Commonwealth.

    In 2006, the Kentucky Agricultural Council responded to Governor Ernie Fletcher’s call and assumed a leadership role in planning to help increase net farm income and improve the quality of life in rural Kentucky. This resulted in the publication of A Pathway for Kentucky's Agriculture and its Rural Communities: 2007 to 2012 Strategic Plan. A second plan followed for 2013-2018: Connecting Strategies to Better Kentucky’s Agricultural Economy and Rural Communities. 

  • 16 Feb 2024 1:27 PM | Jennifer Elwell (Administrator)

    Kentucky Agricultural Council Membership elected new board members at the February 15, 2024 Annual Meeting that was held during the National Farm Machinery Show. A slate of officers was presented, and those were ratified by the board.

    2024 Executive Team

    • Chair - Dr. Tony Brannon, WAVE Ag Initiative
    • Vice Chair - Niki Ellis, Ky Pork Producers
    • Treasurer - Tod Griffin, Agribusiness Association of Kentucky
    • Executive Secretary - Jennifer Elwell, Ky Ag and Env in the Classroom
    • Past Chair - Drew Graham, Kentucky Farm Bureau

    Directors

    • Mark Barker, Farm Credit Mid-America
    • Laura Knoth, Ky Corn Growers
    • Joe Cain, Ky Burley and Dark Fire Tobacco Growers
    • Nikki Whitaker, Ky Cattlemen's
    • Dr. Nancy Cox, UK Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture, Food and Env.
    • NEW - Warren Beeler, Ky Dept of Agriculture
    • NEW - Sarah Coleman, Ky Horse Council

    Drew Graham thanked Debbie Ellis for her 3-year service to the KAC Board of Directors, and Dr. Tony Brannon thanked Drew for his chairmanship over the last 18 months. 


  • 11 Jan 2024 2:21 PM | Jennifer Elwell (Administrator)

    Kentucky Agricultural Council Seeks Input for New Goals and Action

    Kentucky Agriculture continues to evolve. With the new Kentucky Department of Agriculture administration, the Kentucky Agricultural Council (KAC) started work to develop a new vision and action plan with the input of Kentucky’s agricultural stakeholders. The Kentucky Agricultural Strategic Roadmap isn’t just about improving the state’s farms and helping farmers – it’s about strengthening their place in communities and improving quality of life and economic vitality across Kentucky. 

    According to KAC executive secretary Jennifer Elwell, this will be the third time the umbrella group of Kentucky’s agricultural organizations has taken on this task. The first plan was released in 2007, followed by a plan in 2013. Even they the Council continued to hold regular member meetings for networking, education, and program updates, KAC had operated for several years without staff support. The board hired Elwell in July 2022 to assist and start the strategic planning process again.

    “I believe the mission of the Kentucky Agricultural Council, promoting and educating about Kentucky agriculture, is a great companion to what I am already doing with the Kentucky Agriculture and Environment in the Classroom,” said Elwell. “I also see the role as a way to connect with more of Kentucky’s agriculture groups and find ways to help them achieve their missions.”

    KAC requested proposals for strategic planning services in August 2023 and awarded the contract to Michele Payn of Cause Matters, Corp in November. While several entities in Kentucky had previously worked with the Indiana-based agriculture consultant, her proposal included assistance from Murray State University’s Dr. Kristie Guffey. Guffey, originally from Trigg County, has held several leadership roles with Kentucky’s organizations. 

    “Excited does not describe how I felt when I learned that Michele and Kristie were interested in working together on this project,” Elwell remarked. “Their experience will serve Kentucky agriculture well.”  

    Payn and Guffey led an initial discussion with agriculture organization leaders at the November 2023 KAC members’ meeting. Payn facilitated small focus group sessions in December and January; a third session will continue through early February. An initial report will be provided at the February 15 KAC Annual Meeting; the final roadmap is set to be published and distributed in late 2024. 

    Elwell said the goal is to receive input from as many agriculture stakeholders as possible, including a diverse set of farmers, food processors, and agricultural support staff. Board members also wanted a roadmap of concrete, achievable goals and a list of responsible parties who will take the necessary action to achieve those goals. 

    “We want everyone involved in farming to feel they own this vision for Kentucky agriculture,” explained Elwell. “That ownership will hopefully result in an investment of time and funds to do the work to serve the agriculture community better.” 

    February 15 Networking, Brain Storming, and Building Kentucky’s Agriculture Knowledge 

    KAC would like to invite Kentucky’s agricultural stakeholders to participate in the February 15 meeting that will be held from 10 to 12 EDT in the Freedom Hall Conference Room during the National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville. Payn will share the themes that surfaced from the focus group discussions, and members will be asked to brainstorm goals and action items within networking clusters. 

    “A strategic roadmap, when acted upon, will help Kentucky take advantage of its diversity and resources,” remarked Payn. 

    After talking with more than 80 stakeholders, Payn reported that collaboration and consumer awareness are among the most mentioned needs for Kentucky agriculture. Elwell told her that she already had tools to assist those efforts, and plans have been made to share those during the Feb. 15 meeting. The Kentucky Agriculture and Environment in the Classroom will also facilitate a three-hour workshop that afternoon with Payn’s help, to prepare the agriculture community to better speak with non-farming audiences. Learn more about this interactive workshop at www.teachkyag.org/workshops. Registration is required. 

    “I think it is critical that Kentucky’s farming community should work to have a positive, unified voice,” said Elwell. “While there are differences in production practices, operation size, and how goods are marketed, I believe there is a lot in which farmers can agree, such as the need to preserve farmland, conserve natural resources, and provide safe food to a growing population.”

    Elwell continued and said this workshop is perfect for those who want to speak to schools, civic groups, local businesses, legislators, and government officials. Tools will also be provided to help participants tell Kentucky’s agriculture story. 

    For more information about the Kentucky Agricultural Council meeting, visit www.kyagcouncil.org.   

    About the Kentucky Agricultural Council

    The Kentucky Agricultural Council is an umbrella group representing all sectors of Kentucky Agriculture. Its 50+ members include non-profit organizations, trade associations, commodity groups, state and federal agencies, and institutions of higher education — all interested in the advancement and development of Kentucky agriculture. KAC works to plan programs for its members and disseminate information that creates an understanding and appreciation of Kentucky agriculture and serves as a liaison between private and public agricultural organizations, the Commissioner of Agriculture, the Governor, and the legislature in order to develop and effectively utilize our agricultural resources to the fullest extent.


The Kentucky Agricultural Council is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.
Administrative Address: PO Box 722, Shepherdsville, KY 40165
Official Address: 105 Corporate Drive, Frankfort, KY 40601

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