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Deputy commissioner of Agriculture tells the benefits of the tobacco payout for KY


Joe Hagman,President of the Hancock County Ag Extension Council presented Ellis Russelburg the Person of the Year award at the Chamber Farm City dinner Monday night.

Guest Speaker Warren Beeler

“This is as close to home as I could possibly get to give a talk,” Beeler said. “I live in Caneyville. I stayed 20 something years in Frankfort and 16 years with the Department of Ag., then I went over to the Governor’s Office. I wish you could have gone with me and gotten to see agriculture like I’ve gotten to see agriculture.

We were so lucky to have the tobacco money. When they figured out cigarettes could kill you, every body started suing the tobacco companies one at a time and 46 states took them up on it, but KY is the only state that took the money and put half of it in healthcare to fight all the problems – cancer research, early childhood development, and half in agriculture.

We’re now up to $770M invested in agriculture. They could take it any time but it’s done so much good; it’s amazing. The way the formula works, 35 percent of the money goes to the counties based on how much burley tobacco base you had in 1997. Hancock County raised a lot of tobacco. It’s gone down every year as we’ve quit smoking. This past year, Hancock County got $110K. Over time, it’s been $2.75M invested in Hancock County with the tobacco money.

What’s great about it is it’s seed money for investing. The other 65 percent, the state money, goes into a pot where we can reach in for new projects. We figured out a way to help people and we started moving that money over into a loan program. The loan program has $127M. We have $100M loaned out right now. We do $250K on a farm or on a building; we won’t do more than half the project. Two percent comes back to us, and we’re now getting back to Frankfort $1M a month.

We’ve got money in Frankfort helping people and making money. That’s pretty rare. Most of that money is gone when you send it out. Of those loans, 68 percent are beginning farmers. That’s what this money is all about – seed money for investing. Cash receipts were $3.5B. Guess what they are now?…$8B.

Who would’ve thought 30 years ago, that the number one industry in KY would be chicken. We didn’t have any chicken houses and now they’re everywhere. What’s great about it is that contract helps a small farmer get back in business.

It’s all of the things we don’t know yet that makes agriculture so interesting. You know it and I know it, someplace out in agriculture, some plant, some weed, somewhere there’s a cure for cancer. We’ve got to find it.

The other thing I learned is that it is never ever about the project, it’s about people. People make things go and people make things stop going. I quit studying the projects and started studying the people. I study their talents. I’m an old livestock judge. I’ve judged for 47 years in 43 states. What kind of talents do successful people have? I’ve never seen one that wasn’t all tore up and excited about a project and just absolutely beside themselves with passion about what they were doing.

It’s what you do when you don’t have to do anything that makes people special and successful. If you look hard enough, there’s a win in every loss; you just have to find it. Look on the bright side. Successful people look on the bright side.

I was judging in Billings, Montana. They started with the oldest kids in showmanship. Judging is not what you see, it’s how you value what you see. I asked, ‘Can I talk to them for just 2 minutes so I can tell them what I’m looking for?’ They said sure. An hour and a half later they started the show. Their parents came out. They asked question after question. They were starved to learn. It’s o.k. not to know everything but it’s not o.k. not to learn something every single day. Lesson learned – you don’t get days back. You young folks, please don’t waste a day.

The biggest thing we have in agriculture, you FFA people, is people, not farmers. We need those too, but we need teachers, scientists, geneticists, environmentalists, we need everybody. Seventeen percent of the population works in agriculture. We need people; That’s what it’s all about.

I love agriculture. I’m so proud of what we do and how we do it. You’re so blessed to live in Hancock County. Anytime I come out of Caneyville and hang a right, I know it’s going to be a good day.”

By Jennifer Wimmer

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