Agriculture

Liam Niemeyer I Ohio Valley ReSource

Debby Dulworth has a lot of conversations with her cattle each day. She swings open a gate, driving the herd with repeated calls and the Hereford cattle, respond in kind with groans and snorts.

“They talk to me,” Dulworth said with a laugh, as the cows come bounding out into a fresh field of Kentucky fescue and buttercups. She’s been corralling them from pasture to pasture on her farm for decades near Monkey’s Eyebrow, Kentucky, nestled in a bend of the Ohio River.

Most of the time, they move at her call. The more stubborn ones she herds with the threat of an electric wire she slowly drags through the field. The wire isn’t hot usually, but the cows don’t know that.

WKU Public Radio

The SoKY Marketplace in Bowling Green is going back to holding its in-person farmer's market on Saturday mornings this month.

The season was set to begin in April, but management pushed it back due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Changes made to prevent the spread of COVID-19 include the spacing of stalls by 10 feet, the installation of mobile handwashing stations, and requirements that all vendors wear a mask.

Sarah Cline, director of operations for SoKY Marketplace, said not all sellers feel comfortable setting up this year.

Nicole Erwin / Ohio Valley ReSource

As President Trump ordered meatpacking plants on Tuesday to keep operating amid the coronavirus pandemic, more details are emerging about the concerns workers had about their safety at a facility in Louisville, where dozens of workers were infected and one died. 

 

The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services reported as of Monday, the state was aware of 220 coronavirus cases at four meatpacking plants, including 34 cases at a JBS Swift plant in Louisville. The cabinet also reported one death — at that Louisville plant. 

 

Records of complaints filed with the Louisville Metro Public Health Department show that in early April employees were concerned that the company was not doing enough to protect them.

 

 


Daniel Schneider/U.S. Army

The Kentucky Department for Public Health has confirmed 220 employees at meatpacking plants across Kentucky have tested positive for the coronavirus, with one employee death related to the virus in Louisville.

Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services spokeswoman Susan Dunlap in an email Monday afternoon said the Beshear administration is aware of cases and one death at four meatpacking plants in the state:

USDA/Alice Welch

Dozens of coronavirus cases have been confirmed at two west Kentucky meatpacking plants, following concerns Ohio Valley worker safety advocates have raised about the spread of the coronavirus in these kinds of facilities. 

Green River District Health Department Director Clay Horton said as of Thursday afternoon at least 62 people associated with a Tyson Foods meatpacking plant in Henderson County, Kentucky, have coronavirus. Horton also confirmed 19 cases at a Perdue Farms poultry processing plant in Ohio County, Kentucky. 

“We know there are a number of confirmed cases outside our jurisdiction as well but don’t have specific data at this time,” Horton said in a statement. “We are working diligently to identify every case and close contact. Those individuals are being isolated and quarantined to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

USDA

Kentucky and West Virginia have recently been added to a federal pilot program to allow food stamp recipients to purchase groceries online, and Ohio Valley anti-hunger advocates say it’s a good move to improve food accessibility amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The pilot program lets those receiving food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to make grocery purchases online. The program began in New York in April, 2019, but many states including Kentucky and West Virginia have just recently joined the program to let SNAP recipients buy food with less face-to-face interaction. 

 


Kentucky Grocers and Convenience Store Association

An industry group says many grocery store shelves in Kentucky and nationwide could continue to look apocalyptic for a while. 

With fewer planes flying cargo, and freight restrictions at trade ports, the supply chain has been hindered by the global coronavirus pandemic.  However, some experts says bare shelves are mostly the result of changes in shopping habits.  With schools out and stay-at-home orders in place, consumers continue to make panic runs to grocery stores.

Liam Niemeyer | WKMS

A $69 million lawsuit over control of Owensboro-based hemp processing company Bluegrass Bioextracts has been settled amid controversy surrounding the company not paying out potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in contracts to hemp farmers.

Plaintiff Gerald Edds is one of the former Bluegrass Bioextracts owners who sold his company last year to a Nevada-based limited liability company, DTEC Ventures. Edds, along with other former owners, sued DTEC Ventures last month for multiple reasons including not fulfilling contracts to hemp farmers.

Edds said the settlement will have former owners reacquiring hemp processing equipment owned by Bluegrass Bioextracts, with no money being exchanged between DTEC Ventures and the former owners. With the equipment, Edds said he’s planning on starting a new hemp processing company by this summer, called Precision Biotech, LLC.

Andrew Marsh/Conn Center.

Kentucky lawmakers want Congress to redefine the federal definition of hemp.

A state resolution that passed overwhelmingly in the Kentucky House Tuesday asks the federal government to loosen regulations that could require farmers to destroy their hemp crops.

Farmers grew 92 percent of Kentucky’s hemp harvest last year for CBD. It’s a popular compound users claim has medicinal benefits. CBD-rich hemp also has low levels of the intoxicating compound THC, which is found in marijuana.

Hemp must have THC levels below 0.3 percent or else the government can classify it as illegal marijana and require farmers to destroy the crop.


Liam Niemeyer I Ohio Valley ReSource

John Fuller is waiting for another farmer he’s never met before to talk about a situation he never imagined he would be in.

It’s an overcast January day on his farm in west Kentucky, where he grew 18 acres of hemp last year, investing more than $250,000 of his own cash. He’s one of nearly 1,000 licensed hemp growers in 2019 who helped grow Kentucky’s biggest hemp crop since the state reintroduced it, trying to cash in on what could be a $1 billion industry for CBD products made from hemp.

But now, Fuller is wondering how much of that investment he’ll get back.


Liam Niemeyer | WKMS

One of the largest hemp processing companies in Kentucky is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

GenCanna’s filing Thursday in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Eastern District of Kentucky, if granted, would allow the company to operate while seeking options including refinancing or finding an entity to buy the company.

GenCanna launched in Winchester, Kentucky, in 2014 when the state legalized the cultivation of hemp under a pilot program. GenCanna processes hemp into products made from CBD, a compound many users claim has medicinal benefits. The company in past years had invested heavily in marketing throughout the state, buying billboard space in west Kentucky and becoming last year’s title sponsor for the Kentucky State Fair.

Company CEO Matty Mangone Miranda in a statement said the bankruptcy process will allow GenCanna to navigate several ongoing issues that include an uncertain regulatory environment surrounding hemp and CBD and a “legal dispute” in west Kentucky.

 


Abbey Oldham

Lawmakers say a bill proposing to narrow the definition of milk will help Kentucky’s struggling dairy industry.

The bill, sponsored by Republican Senator Matt Castlendefines milk as “lacteal secretion” from hooved mammals including cows, horses, goats and reindeer. It bans labeling products as milk that do not meet the new definition. Castlen said the bill will help both the industry and consumers.

 

Samantha Horton | Indiana Public Broadcasting

Farmers across the Midwest are facing tight profit margins and rising healthcare costs. And that means some hold off getting medical treatment or forgo health insurance altogether. In response, some state farm bureaus are trying to fill that gap by creating their own group health plan.

The sun is setting as Jacob Smoker does evening chores, feeding cattle on his family's farm in northern Indiana.

“We raise beef cattle primarily,” says Smoker, who chairs the Indiana Farm Bureau’s Young Ag and Professionals state group. “That goes to grocery stores, things like that, but then also we do row crops as well. Non-GMO corn, non-GMO soybeans, things for like tofu processing, as well as seed corn and wheat.”

 


Liam Niemeyer I Ohio Valley ReSource

Ohio Valley farmers planted more than 27,000 acres of hemp last year — about four times more than in 2018 —  to cash in on a booming market for popular CBD products made from the crop.

Yet with that growing boom, the price of CBD-rich hemp has crashed, dropping more than 75 percent in just 6 months. Many farmers are now feeling the financial pinch of that bust.

A report from Colorado-based analytics firm PanXchange said Kentucky farmers last July on average could get $4.35 for each percent of CBD in each pound of hemp. For example, if a pound of hemp contained 6 percent CBD, then each pound of hemp could sell for about $26. Multiply that by thousands of pounds of harvested hemp, and the potential payday could be significant.


G.J. Strang/University of Kentucky

Kentucky’s Farms to Food Banks program increased the types of produce purchased from farmers in 2019.

It also began a new project to freeze some items that were sent along to food banks.

Farms to Food Banks buys what’s sometimes called “ugly produce.” It’s healthy, but not perfect enough in appearance to be sold to grocery stores.

The program pays farmers enough to cover the cost of labor, packaging and transportation, and keeps the imperfect produce from going to waste.

Sarah Vaughn, programs coordinator for Feeding Kentucky, said the program bought 22 types of produce in 2018, with that figure increasing to 28 varieties in 2019.


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