In 1997, Kentucky had roughly 45,000 tobacco farms. By 2007, that had fallen to 8,000.
Despite the decline of this venerable cash crop, net farm income in Kentucky rose dramatically over that period.
The Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund.
To date, Kentucky has used this fund to invest more than $298 million in more than 3,600 projects designed to diversify our farms and increase income for our farmers. We’re talking about initiatives like farmers’ markets, alternative energy ventures like switchgrass and miscanthus, our growing grape and wine industry, agri-tourism and the Kentucky Proud program.
We’re marking the 10th anniversary of the fund today.
I want to acknowledge the strategic vision of people like former Gov. Paul Patton, who first proposed dedicating at least 50 percent of Kentucky’s tobacco Master Settlement Agreement funds for the KADF, and the leadership of agricultural officials who have implemented these projects.
As chairman of the board that makes decisions on how those funds are used, I know the importance of preserving MSA funds for agricultural diversification.
And I know how critical it is for us to help our farmers adapt to meet the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities of the 21st Century.