Farm Bureau convention starts Wednesday

December 06, 2004

LOUISVILLE - Adapting the state's agriculture economy to the post-tobacco buyout environment that begins taking shape next year with the end of the federal tobacco program will be a key topic of discussion during Kentucky Farm Bureau's 85th convention.

More than 1,500 farm leaders, delegates and guests are expected for the annual meeting Wednesday through Saturday at the Galt House in downtown Louisville.

Top political and business figures are on the convention's speakers list, including U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, U.S. Rep. Ron Lewis and the chief executive officer of Southern Farm Bureau Insurance Co. J. Joseph Stroble.

LaDonna Gatlin, noted motivational speaker, also will speak.

Much of the focus for the convention's more than 900 voting delegates will be state and national issues affecting Kentucky communities.


On the federal level, delegates will consider policy on a cattle identification system, a key issue for producers concerned about protecting market share for the state's expanding beef industry.

On the state level, delegates will consider resolutions calling for health insurance reform during the 2005 session of the General Assembly as well as legislation capping damages awarded for non-economic losses in civil lawsuits.

The budget impasse that marked the 2004 legislative session is likely to figure prominently in convention deliberations. To prevent future stalemates, a proposal suggests that lawmakers be required to pass a spending plan before acting on any other measures during the even-year sessions when biennium budgets are suppose to be adopted.

Another resolution recommends that the state's cigarette tax not be increased to a level that would put Kentucky retailers' competitive advantage over stores in other states at risk.

A related proposal supports retaining the formula that earmarks half of the money collected from previous settlement agreements with tobacco companies for agriculture-related projects.

"The tobacco buyout will mean profound changes in our farm economy. But we have been preparing for this eventuality," said Kentucky Farm Bureau President Sam Moore.

"With the tobacco settlement money, we have invested in Kentucky's future as our farmers have been making changes needed to succeed in a different economic climate."

Moore will present his assessment of Farm Bureau activities during the past year and highlight his vision for the organization in 2005 when he delivers the traditional president's address Friday during a session that begins at 9:15 a.m. He will be followed by McConnell, who played a key role in passage of the tobacco buyout legislation in October. Lewis is scheduled to speak Saturday at the public affairs breakfast.

Top county Farm Bureau and individual leaders from throughout the state also will be honored. Distinguished service awards will be presented to two longtime Farm Bureau leaders, and top young farmers and leaders of outstanding women's committees will be recognized.

Also on the program is Michael Dwyer of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agriculture Service. He will speak at the commodity luncheon on Thursday.

UK agriculture economists will deliver their annual projections about the farm economy for the upcoming year on the opening day of the convention.

Winners of the Outstanding Farm Bureau Youth contests will receive college scholarships, and cash awards will be handed out to finalists in the variety showcase.

The meeting ends Saturday following the election of officers and directors and adoption of policies.

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