Governor addresses Ag Council
By Ray Bowman
(A version of this article first appeared in The Farmer’s Pride, September 7 issue)
Since 2006, Kentucky’s governors have asked the Kentucky Agriculture Council to assume a leadership role in planning to help increase net farm income and to improve the quality of life in rural areas of the Commonwealth. However, the recent quarterly meeting of the council at the Kentucky State Fair marked the first time a governor had attended and addressed the group.
Council chair John McCauley called on Warren Beeler, Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Agriculture Policy to introduce Governor Matt Bevin, who Beeler described as someone “who understands the value of agriculture.”
“I do have great respect and appreciation for what you do,” the Governor told the room filled with commodity group representatives, agribusiness leaders, and agriculture educators. “I’m grateful to live in a state where so much of what we are blessed to be able to eat is grown right here.”
Bevin was quick to remind the group that he is no newcomer to agriculture, having grown up on a farm and shown livestock at county fairs, sleeping in a sleeping bag in the loft above the animals “It was the highlight of my entire social year as a kid, once a year at the county fair with my animals, sleeping in the barn. That was as good as it got for me.”
The governor went on to praise the agriculture industry in Kentucky for its sense of community and urged them to consider doing two things; think bigger and think different.
“Think about globalizing what you do,” the governor urged. “The bottom line is, there’s markets everywhere, whether it’s China, whether it’s Europe, whether it’s Canada, whether it’s Mexico, it doesn’t matter. All over the world there’s opportunity for the things that you do.”
Bevins praised Kentucky agriculture commissioner Ryan Quarles for his education and experience in foreign trade, saying that he and Beeler and their organizations are valuable resources that should be utilized.
The “think different” component, according to Bevin, involves taking the product past the growing stage and adding value to it.
“It can be done. Some of you are already doing it. Let’s find better ways to do it,” the governor encouraged.
Commissioner Quarles spoke following the governor and was quick to return the praise. “Isn’t it refreshing to have a governor that knows the difference between a soybean and a green bean,” Quarles mused. “We’re just happy that he shares the vision that you all do. We have a governor that’s accessible and responsible and one that’s willing to listen first before making decisions.”
State Senator Paul Hornback, chair of the Senate agriculture committee and Representative Richard Heath, chairman of the House ag committee both briefly spoke to the group, as did Miss Kentucky, Molly Matney.