UK Ag Biotech Day showcases diversity for high schoolers

By Ray Bowman

(A version of this article first appeared in The Farmer’s Pride, August 17 issue)

 Many high school students with an interest in sciences may not be aware of the myriad of opportunities available to them when they begin their college career.

“Most of the students who come here and major in biology or think about science think about it because they want to be doctors,” according to Dr. Carol Hanley from the UK Tracy Farmer Center for the Environment. “This program introduces them to other options, and that’s why it’s so important.”

In July, the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment hosted Ag Biotech Day, a free event designed to introduce high school students to career opportunities available to them in agriculture.



Lab host Wesley Pires talks about research on biological controls for the Emerald Ash Borer


“Our goal is to provide a forum for people to ask questions and see the kind of research that’s going on, talk with researchers about what they’re doing and why it’s important,” according to Ellen Crocker, a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Forestry who, along with Dr. Hanley and others, organized the event. “There’s so much great research going on here, and I think the public isn’t aware of it.”

“I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding about what biotechnology is,” Crocker continued. “It’s a huge diversity of different tools, different techniques, and different applications.”

Dr. Paul Vincelli, an extension professor and Provost’s Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology says he hopes the Open House helps clear up some of the misunderstanding and starts some necessary conversations. “Ellen and I discussed this issue of how do we find a way to humanize biotechnology and this was the plan we came up with,” he notes. “At a minimum, we’re having a chance to bring potential students to campus and interact with professors and other students in the ag biotech program, and that’s good for UK, it’s good for the students to have those choices.”

Dr. Vincelli says it’s important to show that “there are real people, especially young people with ideals” working in the field of biotech who are excited about the work they are doing and its relevance to society. “Every one of them has an interest in trying to make the world a little bit of a better place.”

As the students, parents and other interested individuals toured the labs during the open house, they were introduced to research being conducted in seed development, forest health threats, soil and plant bacteria and plant viruses. Topics of discussion ranged from improving soybean genetics to finding better methods to fight invasive insects like the highly destructive emerald ash borer.

Dr. Crocker stressed that biotechnology is not as new and mysterious as some people think. “The fact that we have the crops that we have today is because biotechnologists have been selecting the best version of corn, the best version of your favorite fruit or vegetable for hundreds of years. That’s biotechnology, just like genetic engineering is.”

Boyle Farm-City Breakfast celebrates county’s ag contributions

By Ray Bowman

(A version of this article first appeared in The Farmer’s Pride, August 3 issue)

Agriculture is a pretty big deal in Boyle county and they’d like everyone to know about it.

“Boyle County has 620 farms, total, covering 121,549 acres with the average farm size being 163 acres,” county Farm Bureau President Brad Godbey told the 150 or so attendees at the 4th Annual Boyle County Farm-City Breakfast. He says that in 2015, the county brought in almost $31 million in ag receipts.

“Ag-related jobs in our county are very important,” Godby continued, noting that for the same 2015 period they represented just shy of 8 percent of the county’s employment. He speculated that number has grown and will continue to grow.

working the crowd

Godby then introduced the morning’s featured speaker, Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, who continued the theme of ag’s importance.

“Wendell Berry says that if you eat, you are committing and agricultural act,” Quarles began. “Food brings people together.”

The commissioner brought the gathering up to speed on the workings of his organization, reminding them that farming is not the only commitment the department has. They are also the Commonwealth’s largest regulatory agency, responsible for areas as diverse as the accuracy of gasoline pumps to the safety of carnival rides.

Quarles also showed another side of his personality, a sly, subtle sense of humor.

“It’s a fact that there are more people on than there are farmers,” he mused, referring to the infamous on-line dating site.

Noting that the average age of farmers in the United States is currently 62, the commissioner said, “name another occupation where the average age is almost retirement age, besides the U.S. Senate.”Ryan in Danville

“If you’ve had a biscuit from McDonalds anywhere on the east coast of the United States, it came from Kentucky,” Quarles noted. After asking who hasn’t had a biscuit from McDonalds and receiving a modest response, he observed “there’s some liars out there.”

Shifting back to his serious side, the commissioner talked about one of his pet programs. One year ago, he launched the Kentucky Hunger Initiative, an innovative program that works to identify food solutions for Kentuckians who need it most.

Recently, the Kentucky General Assembly passed House Bill 237, the Food Immunity Bill. “Now Kentucky has the strongest Good Samaritan donation language in the nation,” Quarles said.

According to the Louisville Courier Journal, “the bill satisfies retailers’ concerns they might be sued by a consumer claiming illness for consuming packaged, shelf-stable products. It also provides liability protection for farmers to donate unsold crops to food banks and nonprofit agencies.”

Quarles closed by complimenting Boyle county as a community that cares about ag literacy and understanding agriculture and “get’s it.”

Third Thursday Thing turns 20

By Ray Bowman

(A version of this article first appeared in The Farmer’s Pride, August 3 issue)

 Two decades ago, Kentucky State University Small Farm Specialist Marion Simon was wrestling with some pressing questions. With tobacco production disappearing, how would the Commonwealth’s small farmers, who relied so heavily on the cash crop, survive? How about other small farmers and new farmers with non-agricultural backgrounds who were seeking alternative farm production methods?

Simon went searching for answers and came up with a project whose longevity has surprised even her.

The application window for 1997 SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) grant proposals was about to close. In the space of about two hours, Simon conceived a two-year Extension Training Project and submitted the application just ahead of the deadline.

“It was just a two-year project,” Simon reflected. “I never expected the amount of attention and support it has received.”

“From its development in 1997 until today, this project touches more farmers and agriculturalists than any other SARE program we have,” noted Dr. Jeff Jordan, Director of Southern SARE and University of Georgia agriculture professor, speaking at the anniversary celebration and workshop at KSU’s Harold R. Benson Research and Demonstration Farm.



Dr. Marion Simon (right) and KSU Small Farm Outreach Project Manager Louie Rivers (left) have watched the Third Thursday Thing grow from the beginning

The Third Thursday Thing was in its second year when Dr. Kirk Pomper joined the KSU Staff as a researcher. He is now Land Grant Program Director in the university’s College of Agriculture, Food Science and Sustainable Systems. He points to new faculty and added programs for the project’s stakeholders as a way to keep the Third Thursday sessions “fresh.”

“We’ve hired some new folks in urban ag, livestock nutrition, forestry, youth programming and value-added processing of aquaculture,” Pomper noted. “I think those extension and research positions are going to expand the Third Thursday topics into new areas and provide information for new people.”

Pomper says the concept of the Third Thursday Thing helps remove some of the barriers that have traditionally existed between the academics and the application of agriculture research.

“It allows researchers to interact with the farmers, which is really important and I can’t emphasize that enough,” he says. “That way the research actually starts making sense for the producer. We start working on things that they’re interested in and we make sure we’re trying to solve problems that they need solved.”

In the early days, the workshops averaged about 30 participants, but as the word began to spread attendance continued to grow, sometimes overwhelming the modest facilities that had been adapted to accommodate the sessions. The monthly event now attracts hundreds of diverse participants, ranging from active to prospective producers to consumers who want to know more about what it takes to put food on the table.

Dr. Simon insists the interest, primarily from active participants and stakeholders, is what has led to the success of the Third Thursday Thing and will pave its way into the future.


Kentucky Dawgs bite into the local food market

by Ray Bowman

(First appeared in Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association publication Cow Country News August issue)

Henry County cattleman David Neville spent a quarter century using his marketing degree and commensurate skills for what he calls “corporate America.” Now he’s applying his expertise and some of the experience gained in the business world to help Kentucky producers sell their wares, most prominently a product of Neville’s own creation called Kentucky Dawgs.DSC_6861

“I had what I thought was going to be a ‘one-off’ conversation with the executive director of the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association, Dave Maples, about getting local beef into the Kentucky State Fair,” Neville recalls. In past years, the food booths run by KCA at the event have relied on beef, supplied by commercial vendors, that may have been raised or finished anywhere in the United States.

The idea of using Kentucky-sourced beef was attractive, but Neville indicates that a little something extra was needed to really seal the deal.

Neville says a meeting at the University of Kentucky that touched upon nutritional applications for hemp and hemp oil sparked an idea. The discussion involved how to sell hemp foods and how to sell local beef, and the question was already on the table about introducing a local beef product in the Commonwealth’s most high-profile venue.

An all-beef sausage flavored with hemp oil and textured with hemp hearts (shelled hemp seeds) seemed to fit the bill. The oil comes from Victory Hemp Farms, also located in Henry County, so you might think utilizing the product wouldn’t pose a major problem, right?

Hemp is still an experimental crop in Kentucky and its use required some clarification from the federal authorities. Neville was cautioned that approval to use the additive might take as much as 2 years. “Fortunately, I’m hard-headed enough that I just kept after it,” Neville said.

To help smooth the path and expedite approval for the use of hemp, Neville turned to another farmer from Lewis County, who also just happened to be his congressman.

Rep. Thomas Massie followed up on Neville’s request and soon the USDA responded to the congressman by email, saying that hemp oil and seeds may be used for flavoring meat and poultry products without any additional approval.

Rather than 2 years, the clarification took about 10 days. “We had, for the first time ever, approval to put hemp products in processed meat products, so away we go!”

With that hurdle cleared, there was still a minor problem to be addressed. Neville knew nothing about making sausage.

“I spent three years in the Army in Germany, so I knew what a good sausage was supposed to taste like,” Neville reflected. “I didn’t know how to make it, but I knew what it was supposed to be.”


Webb’s Butcher Block in Meade County got things started, overseeing the production of the first Kentucky Dawgs that made their debut at the Kentucky State Fair last year. As a result of the initial offering, the Kroger supermarket chain approached Neville about the product and now features it in fifty-two of their locations around the Commonwealth.

Produced without the hemp, The Kentucky Dawg becomes the School Dawg which is now being embraced by school lunch programs to provide students with an alternative to conventional frankfurters.

After a successful trial run in Frankfort at the Capitol Annex cafeteria during the 2017 legislative session, Neville hopes to soon see Kentucky Dawgs available throughout the Kentucky State Park system.

New products, such as a spicy Kentucky Hot Link, bologna and a Caliente Dawg targeted to Hispanic consumers are also in the works.

The first Dawgs were made from two of Neville’s steers. Now the meat is sourced from cattlemen all over Kentucky. Often it is the trim from more sought-after primal cuts that is usually included in ground beef. Selling the trim for use in the production of the beef sausages provides growers who direct-sell their steaks and roasts with yet another revenue source.

The local foods movement, focusing many times on value-added products like Neville’s brainchild, has been very successful in recent years. Of course, the quality must be there for customers to keep coming back, but almost as important is the sense of place, connection to the land and the support of regional agriculture local foods provide.

“As I’ve said many times, David Neville is not irresistible, but this story we have is,” he muses. “It’s a story that needs to be told.”

Weather threatens but cooperates for Franklin County field day

By Ray Bowman

(A version if this article first appeared in The Farmer’s Pride, July 20 issue)

Heavy clouds hung over the Steve Thornton family farm on Mt. Zion Road on the morning of the 59th Annual Franklin County Farm-City Field Day. Thunderstorms had rolled through the area earlier that morning and the threat of more showers persisted, yet the weather conditions seemed to have little impact on the attendance and enthusiasm for the event.


Volunteers hustled to restock the wagons that would transport visitors with fresh, dry straw bales as tractors lined up to pull the wagons to the starting point of the tour.



As the tractors started rolling, urban and rural attendees alike were ferried to several instructional stops that addressed gardening and vegetable diseases, hay storage, forage management and invasive plant species identification and control.





The tour wound its way across the farm to a small tent city set up to serve lunch, including rib-eye sandwiches, burgers, and hot dogs. Kentucky Dawgs, the brainchild of Henry County farmer and entrepreneur David Neville were also available for sampling. This unique Kentucky Proud product is a beef sausage flavored and textured with oils and hearts (shelled seeds) from hemp, the Commonwealth’s newest


experimental crop. The Franklin County Cattlemen’s Association grilled the steaks and additional entrees and side items were provided by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4075 and other donations.



Following the meal, local dignitaries thanked the crowd for their perseverance in light of the questionable weather. Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles welcomed everyone saying that much of his youth was spent with family on farms in Franklin County. He also focused on the importance of bringing city-dwelling friends and family out to the farm, whether it be this type of event or other opportunities.


“It’s a chance to inform people who otherwise might not have the opportunity to see, first hand, where their food comes from,” Quarles noted.

Farm-City Field Day is presented by UK Cooperative Extension, the Frankfort/Franklin County Chamber of Commerce, the Franklin County Conservation District and Franklin County Farm Bureau. It is made possible by the help of 125 volunteers and more than 30 groups and business that donate money or services.

For the most part, the event enjoyed a respite from the rain, but as visitors were transported back to their vehicles, the clouds began to regroup for another round of afternoon showers.

Protecting Kentucky’s Pollinators

by Ray Bowman

(A version if this article first appeared in The Farmer’s Pride, July 6 issue)

 Mention the term pollinator and most people’s thoughts go to honey bees. Interestingly, the honey bee as we think of it today is not even native to the Americas.

According to Wikipedia (and who doesn’t believe Wikipedia?) honey bees appear to have their center of origin in South and Southeast Asia. They may have bummed a ride with the early colonists around 1622, when they arrived by way of Europe. The Native Americans dubbed it “the white man’s fly.”

But as ubiquitous as the honey bees now are, Kentucky’s state apiarist Tammy Horn says the Commonwealth hosts plenty of other (mostly) native pollinators.

“Pollinators is a very broad umbrella, that includes bats, hummingbirds, and butterflies – especially Monarch butterflies,” Horn observed. She noted that the Monarchs are a matter of concern, as are the honey bees, due to much-publicized fluctuations in their populations.

All this underscored the importance of Kentucky Pollinator Week, which coincided with National Pollinator Week, June 19-25.


The Kentucky Department of Agriculture hosted state beekeepers, garden clubs and other pollinator friends at an event held in a green space adjacent to the Department offices, where various hives and pollinator attractive plants were on display. Ag chief of staff Keith Rogers read a proclamation from Governor Matt Bevin and Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles emphasized the need for continued public education about the importance of agriculture and the impact of pollinators on that industry.

“We’ve got to do a better job of telling people the basics because when we have a sophisticated issue such a Colony Collapse Syndrome or other issues affecting the bee community, you’ve got to have a basic level of understanding before there can be intelligent discussion,” Quarles noted.



Tammy Horn with Commissioner Ryan Quarles


Also at the event, Commissioner Quarles was presented with the Kentucky Pollinator Protection Plan, which Horn points to as a four-part set of guidelines to address some of the challenges being faced by Kentucky’s pollinator population.

“We’re defining best management practices, we’re increasing pollinator habitat, and we’re increasing education,” Horn explained. “Our last goal has been to create an electronic communication tool so that if something is being sprayed that requires communication with KDA, the sprayer can log on-line and text beekeepers and other managers of sensitive land areas.”

Horn says the final communication component is not active yet, but the project has been approved and is forthcoming.

The pollinator protection plan is on the Department of Agriculture’s web site at and Horn says parts of it are currently being implemented.

Kentucky Farm Bureau, along with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment and several other stakeholders have been involved in creating the state’s Pollinator Protection Plan.

Always improving

(First appeared in Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association publication Cow Country News June issue)

Ed Note: This is the first in a series of articles that will be covering those selling beef in Kentucky. We will focus on producers across the state who are all making an impact in their own way. Stories will include individuals selling freezer beef,those selling further processed beef and those selling beef products direct into the retail and food service areas, to name a few. It also includes stories like this one on producers who are making decisions on the farm that affect the end product. All of these people are making an impact on our industry and we want to focus on their success and struggles.


By Ray Bowman

 Some Kentucky beef producers are shipping their steers to Iowa. What’s coming back is verified, valuable statistical information that could help them improve the makeup of their herd and have a very positive impact on cattle production in the Commonwealth.

The Tri-County Steer Carcass Futurity program has been in place for over 30 years, started by Pottawattamie, Cass and Shelby County Cattleman’s Associations in 1982.

The goal of the program is to provide information to beef producers they can use in managing and marketing their product.  It provides cow-calf producers information on feedlot performance, average daily gain and carcass data on one or more steers/heifers entered.

The 10-member board that oversees the Futurity is made up of representatives from various segments of the beef industry. Their aim is to identify problems facing cow-calf producers and evaluate alternatives that can be demonstrated and shared with fellow consignors.

Producers sending their stock to the program retain ownership of the animals and receive compensation for the animals. When the cattle are harvested, the owners get the sale price of the carcass, minus feed and maintenance costs.


DSC_6273 crop

Doug Shepherd, KCA president Chuck Crutcher and Hardin County Extension agent Matt Adams look over some numbers from the Tri-County Steer Carcass Futurity


“We started back in 2005 when we shipped the first two loads out there,” recalls Doug Shepherd, Hardin County extension agent, who, along with current Kentucky Cattleman’s Association president Chuck Crutcher of Rineyville, was instrumental in starting the project. Shepherd says it was a leap of faith to ship two semi-loads of calves to Iowa, even though little was actually known about the Futurity.

“Chuck and I hopped on a plane and landed out there four hours after the cattle arrived,” Shepherd continues. “We were totally impressed with what we saw and we came back and told the consignors they needed to go out and see this for themselves.”

Annual field trips continue to be a feature of Kentucky’s involvement with the program.

Since that initial venture, Shepherd says there has been a consistent flow of cattle from a number of Kentucky counties out to the feed lots designated by the Tri-County board. Kentucky is one of some sixteen states and one Canadian province that have sent stock to the futurity.

Cattle entered into the program must meet the Commonwealth’s CPH-45 requirements.

Currently, the cattle are loaded out at a number of sites, primarily stockyards. Shepherd says he hopes a dedicated livestock management facility will be built near Elizabethtown in the coming year.

After the steers have spent their time in the feed yard and are harvested, the information starts to flow back to the Kentucky consignors. “It’s a whole lot of data,” Shepherd observes.

When the numbers are in, the producers come to the Hardin County Extension offices to hear economists, meat scientists and animal nutritionists help them make sense – and practical application – of it all in order to improve the quality of their herds and the strength of their bottom line.

“They sit down with these guys and go over the numbers, column by column, how their cattle performed, what they need to consider changing in their operation,” Shepherd explains. “When we started this thing, we were averaging 35 to 37 percent choice grades, way below the national average. We’re up to a point where we have some loads hitting 90 percent choice.”

“What the consumer is demanding now, they want to know how cattle are treated, how cattle are fed, they’re very conscious of that,” Chuck Crutcher noted. “If we can put a better product on the table, that’s what we all should be doing.”

Breathitt Vet Center gets a new home

(First appeared in Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association publication Cow Country News June issue)

By Ray Bowman

 Edward T. “Ned” Breathitt served as Kentucky’s Governor from 1963 to 1967 during an era marked by profound changes in the nation’s civil rights laws and policies and a major focus on conservation and natural resources. An $875,000 bond issue for a state-of-the-art veterinary medicine facility probably didn’t draw much of the spotlight during those heady times.

The original 19,000 square-foot center was built in Christian County, KY, near Breathitt’s hometown of Hopkinsville in November of 1967. It would later be expanded to 44,000 square-feet and would become the first laboratory in the country to be fully accredited by the American Association of Laboratory Diagnosticians.

Initially, the Breathitt Veterinary Center and its sister facility, the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Lexington were operated by the state Department of Agriculture. In 1978, the Lexington Lab was transferred to the oversight of the University of Kentucky and Murray State University assumed responsibility for the BVC, charting a future course for the two facilities that would bring education and research into their missions.

The BVC was enlarged and renovated in 1982 and officially named the Breathitt Veterinary Center, but the mission of the center continued to outgrow the original facility. Following a feasibility study funded by the Governor’s Office of Agriculture Policy with Tobacco Settlement money, the Kentucky General Assembly approved $32 million for construction of a new lab.


On May 11, 2017, Governor Matt Bevin joined Murray State University president Robert O. Davies and a host of other dignitaries for the building’s official ribbon cutting ceremony.

“I’m grateful for the work that went into this project, and those of you who, from the beginning, had this vision and this passion and didn’t give up,” Governor Bevin said. “It takes time to do things right, and this is done right.”

The Governor also thanked the architect who designed the structure. “I cut ribbons on a lot of buildings, government buildings, and they’re kind of sad looking sometimes,” Bevin lamented. “This is a stunning, stunning facility.”


Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles took the opportunity to underscore the importance of the facility to Kentucky’s agricultural economy. “Over half of all farm receipts in Kentucky, about $3.3 billion of the $6 billion total, come from animal agriculture,” Quarles told those in attendance. “Having a diagnostics lab that is internationally known matters, and having it right here in Kentucky is something that we are very, very proud of.”

The May 11 event marked the public unveiling of the BVC, however, Quarles pointed out that the facility had already had its mettle tested by a real-world emergency and had passed with flying colors.

The laboratory was conducting a routine pre-slaughter test of “spent hens,” birds no longer being used for production from a nearby layer facility. The tests revealed the presence of low-pathogenic Avian Influenza prompting quarantines and temporary suspension of live bird sales at sale and show events.

Thanks to quick action made possible by early detection, the poultry industry only experienced a brief disruption. “Fortunately, what used to be a bad scenario ended up pretty minor, and that’s something we can all be thankful for,” Quarles noted. “What a way to break in a new building!”

“Almost daily, we update the science used to diagnose disease and protect the public,” commented Dr. Debbie Reed, director of the Breathitt Veterinary Center. “The Commonwealth of Kentucky has placed a great deal of trust in us by investing in this facility, and we need to live up to that trust by being the best public servants possible.”

Mercer breakfast kicks off June Dairy Month

(First Appeared in the June 1 issue of The Farmer’s Pride)

By Ray Bowman

 Larry Yeager says the Mercer County dairymen have been using the last Saturday in May to kick off the observance of June Dairy Month for about 11 years now. The first celebrations were held in the community of Salvisa, but more recently they have moved a little closer to Harrodsburg.

Things started early, around 6:30 AM, with Cloud’s Country Kitchen serving up mountains of scrambled eggs, bacon, and sausage with biscuits and gravy, coffee, and – of course – gallons of milk.

“We usually see about 400 folks come through here in the course of the morning,” Yeager estimates.


Caitie Collier and Ellie Jenkins from the Mercer County FFA Dairy Club give Kentucky Kate a workout

Activities included appearances by local dignitaries, music and a milking contest featuring Kentucky Kate, a life-size, fiberglass, milkable cow provided by the Kentucky Dairy Development Council (KDDC).

The $5.00 admission fee entitled visitors to breakfast and a chance at a door prize. The proceeds from the ticket sales go to benefit the Mercer County Fair Dairy Show.

The breakfast may have been the unofficial opener for June Dairy Month, but Governor Matt Bevin put his signature to the official proclamation designating the month on May 30th.

“There’s a lot of folks involved in the dairy industry, from producers and processors to marketers, and we like to take this month to show appreciation to all those people and promote the dairy products that are produced, not only here in Kentucky but everywhere,” according to Maury Cox, executive director of the KDDC.

Cox says Kentucky has a lot to be proud about when it comes to the dairy industry in the Bluegrass State. “In the March edition of the national magazine Hoard’s Dairyman, Kentucky ranked first in the nation for increased production per cow.”

“Kentucky also ranks first in milk quality out of eleven southeastern states,” Cox continued “which indicates there is also a tremendous focus on quality as well as production per cow.”

Kentucky’s commitment to dairy excellence is also reflected in the education and research being done here in the Commonwealth. From May 30-June 1, the University of Kentucky is partnering with the University of Minnesota to bring the Precision Dairy Farming Conference and Expo to Lexington.

The conference program will take a very practical approach, including dairy producer showcase sessions, many industry updates, and talks about how research impacts dairy management. The trade show will be an opportunity to see first-hand what companies have to offer in the growing field of precision technologies and equipment.

Several counties will recognize the importance of the dairy industry to Kentucky during the month with appreciation dinners and other observances. For baseball fans, June 15th will be Kentucky Proud Legen-Dairy Night with the Lexington Legends at Whitaker Bank Ballpark in Lexington and June 22nd will be Dairy Night with the Bowling Green Hot Rods at Bowling Green Ballpark.

Governor cuts ribbon on new Breathitt Vet Center

(First Appeared in the May 18 issue of The Farmer’s Pride)

By Ray Bowman

 Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin says he grew up a 4-H kid.

“I’ve probably raised more hogs and chickens than any Governor in America,” Bevin said. “I’m quite confident in that fact.”


The Governor’s comments came in remarks he delivered at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new 77,000 square foot Breathitt Veterinary Center (BVC) near Hopkinsville, replacing its 44,000 square foot predecessor which opened in 1968. The new facility, under the oversight of Murray State University, boasts 53,000 square feet of diagnostic space and the only Biosafety Level III suite in Kentucky. The center is accredited by the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians and is part of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network.

Bevin told the overflow crowd attending the ceremony that his life-long association with agriculture makes it easy for him to appreciate the importance of the new animal health complex.

“When I was 17-years-old, I had an opportunity to go to Beltsville, Maryland,” the Governor reflected, referring to the USDA research facility there which he said was not dissimilar in nature to the new Breathitt Center. “It’s a profound memory for me, in appreciation of the power of how agriculture touches each and every one of our lives.”



Governor Matt Bevin, Murray State University Hutson School of Agriculture dean Tony Brannon and Governor’s Office of Agriculture Policy executive director Warren Beeler


Bevin thanked everyone who had a part in the project for their vision, passion and perseverance and their dedication to “getting things right.”

Even though the facility is just now coming into the public eye, it has been functional for a short time and Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles pointed out in his remarks to the audience that the BVC had to hit the ground running with the recent outbreak of Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza on a Christian County farm, the first appearance of the disease in the Commonwealth since 2009.

Quarles said he received a call from state veterinarian Robert Stout advising him that the virus had been discovered. “The second call I received was from this center saying, ‘we’ve got it under control.’ Fortunately, what used to be a bad scenario ended up being something minor, and that’s something we can all be thankful for. What a way to break in a new building.”


Governor Matt Bevin and BVC director Dr. Debbie Reed

In 2008, $300,000 was designated for a feasibility study from the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board (ADB) to get the ball rolling for the Breathitt Veterinary Center. The money came from tobacco settlement funds and the current executive director of the Governor’s Office of Agriculture Policy, which oversees the ADB, told the crowd that tobacco settlement dollars are still having a major impact on Kentucky agriculture.

“In 1998, when this money showed up, we had 46,000 tobacco farmers in Kentucky, and now we have 4,600,” Warren Beeler observed. “In 1998, cash receipts at farm gate were $3.7 billion, and tobacco was a fourth of that. Today, cash receipts are $6 billion and tobacco is less than 7%. It’s no coincidence. It’s Kentucky tobacco money helping farmer help themselves.”

David Beck, executive vice president of Kentucky Farm Bureau served as master of ceremonies for the event, and following comments from Dr. Robert O. Davies, president of Murray State University, Dr. Tony Brannon, dean of the Hutson School of Agriculture at MSU, and Dr. Debbie Reed, director of the Breathitt Veterinary Center, Governor Bevin closed the ceremony by presenting a proclamation paying tribute to the new center.

The Governor and president Davies then snipped the ribbon on the BVC and participants got their first up-close look at the new facility.

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