Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer visited Hopkinsville on Monday, encouraging donations to Kentucky 4-H and Future Farmers of America programs. Comer met with Christian County Clerk Mike Kem as well as children from local FFA and 4-H programs. He is a supporting a program that asks for a $10 donation from farmers when they renew their farm license plates.
This is the first year program donations have been voluntary. Legislation mandating the donations was passed in 2009. In the program's first few years, Comer said, there was poor communication between the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and the state 4-H and FFA programs about how much money they would receive.
Comer knew of the problems in the program, and when he took office nine weeks ago, he started thinking of ways to improve it. In January, he announced that the donations would be split evenly among 4-H, FFA and Kentucky Proud. He has since started visiting clerks" offices to help strengthen their support for the program.
"You gotta have the support of the clerks," Comer said. "They remind you, "You want to make this $10 donation." This got started and fell back and now we are trying to pick it back up and rebuild it."
Comer said the state's agricultural department is facing a 9-percent funding cut for 2013. With its budget shrinking, Comer hopes the program will provide a healthy revenue stream for state agricultural programs.
The Kentucky Proud program promotes an assortment of products made by Kentucky farmers and vendors. The donation money will pay for TV ads for the program as well as the plastic emblems with the words "Kentucky Proud" that are placed on the products.
The program has around 3,000 members, many of whom, Comer said, are young farmers that use the Kentucky Proud emblem to promote their products.
"They are young farm families and they don't have much money to invest in the program," he said. "We are trying to help them get started."