September 6, 2000 | By: Laura Skillman
OWENSBORO, KY.

As the state begins the process of helping farmers turn from a heavily tobacco dependent state to a more diverse agriculture economy, efforts are beginning at the county and regional levels to get input.

Under House Bill 611, passed by the 2000 Kentucky General Assembly, half of the money coming to Kentucky from a settlement between states and cigarette manufacturers will be used to further the state's farm economy. As a part of that a statewide board was established, along with county boards, to determine how that money will be invested in agriculture.

Over the next two years, an estimated $180 million will be available to help farmers. Under House Bill 611, 35 percent of the money will go for projects in specific counties -- based on a formula that takes into account each county's dependency on tobacco -- while the other 65 percent will go for statewide projects.

To begin the process, the state board is encouraging county boards to schedule forums to allow for public input and to educate the public about the process and agriculture's importance to the community.

At least some counties are banding together to have regional forums. The Green River area will be doing just that with a forum at 7 p.m. Sept. 18 at the Daviess County Cooperative Extension Service office in Owensboro.

Wayne Mattingly, Daviess County Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources, said his county's board thought it would be best to have a regional meeting along with individual meetings within counties.

"They felt like it is important to have a regional approach," he said.

John-Mark Hack, Director of Agriculture Policy for Gov. Paul Patton and executive director of the Kentucky Agriculture Development Board, will be at the Owensboro meeting to discuss the statewide initiative. Following his comments, there will be an open discussion on how the funding should be used.

Similar meetings will be conducted on county and regional levels throughout the state in coming weeks.

Mattingly and other Extension agents across the state are assisting local boards by providing the administrative support.

The University of Kentucky College of Agriculture and Cooperative Extension Service also play roles through research and educational programs that will assist farmers and groups as they look to new farming enterprises.

Mattingly said the University can assist farmers with such things as learning about products, marketing, feasibility, and developing proposals.

Contact: 

Wayne Mattingly, (270) 685-8480