Less than a fifth of Kentucky farmers took the option to donate $10 when they licensed their farm trucks last year, possibly because they didn’t know to whom they would be donating.
The donation that is automatically attached to the licensing fee when farm trucks are licensed in the county clerk’s office goes to the Agricultural Program Trust Fund at the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. A Kentucky law, which went into effect two years ago, only requires that the funds be “used for agricultural programs administered by the department.”
Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, who took office in January, has made a commitment to divide the funds equally to Kentucky 4-H, FFA and Kentucky Proud.
Comer has promoted the Agricultural Program Trust Fund at various farm organization meetings recently and unveiled the plan during a recent meeting of county clerks.
“There are less than 180,000 farm tags, and last year 17.5 percent paid the $10,” Comer said during a recent meeting of the Kentucky Ag Council. The council met at the state fairgrounds in Louisville during the National Farm Machinery Show.
The non-profit foundations representing Kentucky 4-H and FFA, which also met during the farm show, both voted to send half of their proceeds back to the county from which they came. That means farmers donating $10 will know that a third of the money will come back to their home county. They will also help fund state-level 4-H and FFA activities, and support the 6,000 members of Kentucky Proud.
“FFA and 4-H give Kentucky’s young people opportunities to participate in constructive activities while they learn the value of hard work and discipline,” Comer said. “Kentucky Proud helps Kentucky producers find new markets for their products. All three programs are vital to the future of Kentucky agriculture and Kentucky as a whole.”
There are 15,000 youth involved in FFA and 205,000 youth involved in 4-H programs. Kentucky Proud is the official state program for food and farm products grown, raised, made or processed in Kentucky.
Billy Ray Smith, former agriculture commissioner and executive director of the Kentucky FFA Foundation, commended Comer for making the commitment.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for youth of Kentucky in 4-H and FFA,” Smith said. “We appreciate the commissioner for recognizing the significance of these two youth programs.”
KDA, 4-H and FFA are working together to promote the program and encourage farmers to make the $10 donation when they license their trucks, which usually takes place in March.
“Kentucky 4-H has been given a tremendous opportunity by Commissioner Comer to raise significant funds to support 4-H,” said Keith Rogers, executive director of 4-H in Kentucky. “But the scale of this success will be up to all of us in the 4-H family and how we promote and encourage our friends, alumni, and communities to step up and support 4-H through the voluntary donation.”
More than $336,000 was donated in 2011. Rogers said he believes the total can be increased to $800,000 or more in the next two years with community support.
By Sharon Burton