Today I had the privilege of addressing the State Future Farmers of America Convention.
The group, with nearly 15,000 members in over 140 chapters across the state, has been in existence since 1930, developing leaders in the agricultural industry.
Having had a chance to interact with them before, both as governor and as co-owner with Jane of a horse farm, I want to say upfront I think the industry is in good hands. These are some smart, hard-working young people.
In fact, I think the group’s name is a misnomer. As hard as these young people work, not just hitting the books and studying experts but getting their hands dirty in the fields and barns at home, to call them “future” farmers doesn’t give them enough credit. Most of them are bona fide farmers right now, and they put in the time to prove it!
My message to them was simple: It’s an exciting time to be getting into agriculture.
Yes I’m aware that this state’s agricultural heritage, in some areas, has been lost, with farms paved over and replaced with homes and businesses. No doubt Kentucky is more urban than it was a hundred years ago.
And it’s also true that farmers face some stiff challenges, both from economic pressures and those posed by ever-changing technology and market factors.
But it’s also true that Kentucky needs its farmers more than ever before – not just for food but to provide fuel and power.
As this nation strives to diversify its energy portfolios, many of the new technologies rely on farmers to provide the basic fodder from which energy is produced. Opportunities in biofuels and biomass abound as a parallel industry that merges farming and energy science develops around us.
One of my goals as governor has been to help our farmers take full advantage of these opportunities, in the process helping Kentucky become a national leader.
At the same time, the technology that accompanies more traditional farming – with crops and livestock destined for the table – is getting more sophisticated all the time.
Fortunately, the younger generation seems to be getting more sophisticated all the time, too. Today, I had proof of that.