Last week, the federal government deemed farming an essential industry that must continue throughout the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. Many community leaders said that this week, National Ag Week, is a great time for the community to hear about all the actions farmers do to provide food and to be active community members, even in the midst of the crisis.

On Tuesday, March 24, Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Dr. Ryan Quarles encouraged all Kentuckians to celebrate Kentucky’s agriculture community on National Ag Day, as well as all week long during National Ag Week.

“It’s important to realize during National Ag Week that Kentucky’s 75,000 farm families are responsible for more than 352,000 jobs and $45.86 billion of economic output in the Commonwealth,” Quarles said in a statement. “As our nation and state mobilizes to fight the coronavirus pandemic, so are our farmers and agribusinesses. During this critical time, the Kentucky farmer will continue producing the food and fiber our state, our country and our world needs to survive.”

“The fact that farming was ruled essential comes as no surprise to our farmers who are currently preparing their fields and greenhouses,” Kentucky Farm Bureau said in a statement. “The commonwealth’s agriculture economy is the important start of a food supply chain that ultimately ends on the plates of Kentuckians and people across the world. While it is too early to speculate what impact the novel coronavirus has on the agriculture economy, one thing is clear — farmers across Kentucky are continuing to do their job to ensure the food chain is not interrupted.”

“Farmers are at the very beginning of the food chain, so it is imperative that we do our part,” said Mark Haney, president of Kentucky Farm Bureau. “You don’t have to go to the food store but maybe one time to realize we have empty shelves, we have disruption in the supply. But rest assured that the Kentucky farmers and the American farmers will continue to do what we normally do, and that is produce food for this nation and certainly others that need our help. I am so proud of the work we have continued to do.”

Agriculture, said Quarles, grows Kentucky’s economy in many ways.

According to a report from Feeding The Economy, said Quarles, the economic impact of Kentucky agriculture is responsible for 352,120 jobs, $10.47 billion in wages, $12.10 billion in taxes and $1.12 billion in exports. Kentucky Proud, he said, is the official state agricultural marketing program and is a national model with more than 8,000 members and millions of dollars of new income for Kentucky family farms and small businesses. Kentucky’s bourbon industry is responsible for $8.6 billion in annual economic output and an estimated 20,100 jobs, as reported by the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, said Quarles. More than half of distiller’s grain purchases are made from Kentucky farms.

Additionally, he said, Kentucky’s equine industry generates $3.4 billion in economic activity a year and accounts for an estimated 80,000 direct and indirect jobs, according to the Kentucky Equine Education Project. Kentucky is the leading beef cattle state east of the Mississippi River with more than 1 million beef cows. Poultry and eggs are Kentucky’s leading agricultural commodity with more than $1 billion in farm gate cash receipts a year. Kentucky is number one in the nation in production of burley tobacco, dark fire-cured tobacco and dark air-cured tobacco. Kentucky ranked in the top 15 states in production of corn, soybeans, cattle, hay and winter wheat in 2017.

“As our farmers are supporting everyone during this pandemic, it is important that consumers return the favor and support our farmers,” Quarles said. “I urge everyone to support Kentucky farm families by buying Kentucky Proud if they can, whether that is shopping from a Farmer’s Market or grabbing pick-up from a Kentucky Proud restaurant. If you like to eat, thank a Kentucky farmer during National Ag Week and all year long.”

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