Agriculture

Alice Welch

A study published Thursday in a prestigious scientific journal links significant increases in COVID-19 transmission rates to meatpacking plants, especially those facilities that the federal government has allowed to speed up processing lines.

Researchers found evidence that linked meatpacking plants to a “high potential for community spread” in the surrounding areas. The findings have implications for the Ohio Valley, where Tyson Foods plants in western Kentucky and southern Indiana received waivers this spring to increase work line speed even as dozens of workers were falling ill to the virus.

AppHarvest

An eastern Kentucky agritech company is breaking ground on a third greenhouse in the region after cutting the ribbon on one greenhouse and breaking ground on another last week. AppHarvest said Monday that the planned 15-acre facility in Berea will use recycled rainwater like the company’s other facilities.

The company recently cut the ribbon on a 2.76-million square foot greenhouse growing tomatoes in Morehead and broke ground on another similarly-sized greenhouse in Madison County. The facility near Berea will be used to produce leafy greens.

AppHarvest

An eastern Kentucky agritech company that is cutting the ribbon this week on a massive greenhouse in Morehead is also announcing construction of another large-scale greenhouse in the region. 

AppHarvest said in a release Tuesday that the second large-scale greenhouse will exceed more than 60 acres when completed in Madison County, south of Lexington. The company states the greenhouse would double AppHarvest’s growing space for fruits and vegetables, to go along with the company’s freshly-minted 2.76 million-square-foot greenhouse in Morehead.

Rick Murdock drives past his neighbors on rural back roads in southwest Calloway County, Kentucky, most days in his pickup truck, where he’ll pass by some signs of the season — “Trump 2020” flags and signs.

Murdock said he’s never been the type to put up signs or banners himself supporting a particular candidate — “I would not want to offend my brother, or my neighbor” — but he does consider himself to be a conservative, a Christian. He recalled a past Election Day when he took his then 8-year-old daughter with him to the voting booth to show her what the process was like. He voted for former President George W. Bush that year. 

 


Sydney Boles

A line of blue and yellow pop-up tents stand along the North Fork of the Kentucky River during a sunny September weekend in downtown Whitesburg, Kentucky, and Valerie Horn is doing her part to keep the Letcher County Farmers Market rolling. 

 

Pumpkins and watermelons fill tarps laid out on the ground next to a farmer, and another is offering bottles of maple syrup. As chair of the farmers market, Horn finally has a moment to relax after a busy week leading up to this day. 

“OK, the market’s open, we have good produce, we have customers, we’ve made our invite out, we’ve done what we can do to set up and create a successful market for today,” she said. “Just enjoy seeing who comes by, and stir a little when and if it’s helpful.”

 


KET

Kentucky health officials are suggesting revisions to a proposed regulation that would have dramatically increased food safety inspection fees for some small food producers. 

Department officials said they received hundreds of public comments on the proposal with concerns about fee increases and they now plan to limit fees according to a producer’s income.

Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Resources officials spoke to the Interim Joint Committee on Agriculture on Thursday about the planned rule revision, getting feedback from state lawmakers on concerns about the rule’s impact on small farmers.

Kentucky Corn Growers Association

Many segments of the economy have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, but there is positive news for Kentucky agriculture.

Corn and soybean crops are having a very good year.

Kentucky farmers are forecast to harvest 259 million bushels of corn this year, an increase of six percent over 2019. 

David Knopf is regional director of the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service based in Louisville. He said the temperature and rainfall have been good for corn, and harvesting is expected to continue for a few more weeks.

Sydney Boles | Ohio Valley ReSource

Small food producers in Kentucky aired their disapproval during a virtual public hearing  Monday for a proposed rule that could increase permitting fees for some producers by more than 1000%. One Democratic state representative believes the proposed regulation could also clash with a bill signed by Governor Andy Beshear this year to help local public health departments become more sustainable.

The hearing heard from many small food producers, saying the Kentucky Department for Public Health proposal would cripple their business, especially given the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. Seth Long runs a maple syrup operation in Letcher County and was one of those producers who spoke at the hearing.

Becca Schimmel

Businesses in Kentucky and throughout the country continue to walk a fine line when it comes to welcoming customers, while also enforcing state and local coronavirus guidelines such as the wearing of face masks.

 

New restrictions and requirements at the Community Farmers Market in Bowling Green so far haven’t hurt direct-to-consumer sales. On a recent weekday, vendors could be seen from the road wearing masks and talking to customers about their fresh fruits and vegetables. 

 

Many of the stands would normally be inside, but because of the pandemic, tents have been set up outside to spread people around and encourage social distancing. Nathan Howell is a co-founder of the Bowling Green Community Farmer’s Market and a vendor with Need More Acres farm in Scottsville.  


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. 

 


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