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With clear blue skies and a cool gentle breeze, it was already a good day for farming Wednesday. Gov. Steve Beshear’s major announcements made it a great one.
Beshear made a stop at the Shelbyville farm of Doug Langley and his family to announce that more than $2 million in stimulus funds would be devoted to agriculture in the Commonwealth in an effort to support on-farm energy conservation and renewable energy production.
Beshear chose to make the announcement on stimulus funds at Langley farms for several reasons, he said. For one thing, it's beautiful, and it represents the future of Kentucky agriculture.
Another reason was to recognize Doug Langley as the 2009 Kentucky Farmer of the Year.
Standing before silos on Langley’s farm, Beshear began by describing how the stimulus funds would be available.
"Under this program, funding from the American Recovery And Reinvestment Act will be used to enhance tobacco settlement resources to supply grants to our agriculture community," he said.
Half of the funds will go toward helping farm families increase on-farm energy efficiency and renewable fuel production.
"It's going to encourage farmers to use new technologies, renovate existing facilities, and invest in other measures that conserve or generate new energy," he said.
By doing that, he said farmers will not only protect the environment but they'll see significant savings and likely generate more revenue.
The other million dollars will go toward the multicounty collaborate agricultural energy initiatives program.
"Grants from this program will be awarded to multicounty collaborations that will enhance and advance renewable energy production at the farm level," he said.
"With this initiative we aim to expand the acreage of energy-generating crops through a variety of conduits. We also hope to further developments in collaboration between agriculture, education and industry through an emphasis on renewable energy."
"Our agrarian legacy is not faltering but strengthening."
Energy and Environment Cabinet Secretary Len Peters, formerly of Shelby County, said the state's push of agricultural stimulus funds is particularly important at the present because of rising energy costs and potential energy policy changes at the federal level.
"The economic benefits are substantial. Estimates show that biomass production can generate almost one point seven billion [dollars] annually for the Commonwealth," Peters said. "When production is coupled with processing of biomass and liquid fuels, an additional two billion dollars of income can be created. An opportunity of this magnitude is very, very substantial."
Beshear referred to Langley’s corn going into Woodford Reserve bourbon and said that folks around the Commonwealth and the country reap the benefits of Langley and his family's hard work. Langley also represents the farmer's path toward more efficient production, he said.
"Through Doug's shift from an older model grain dryer to a more energy efficient version, he's shown the importance of converting to more energy efficient methods and equipment," Beshear said.
In a few weeks Langley will compete for the Southeastern Farmer of the Year honor.
Langley said, "It's a really huge honor for myself and my family, and we're just very proud to be a part of it and to be a part of the energy efficient projects that we're talking about here today."
He said it was great to hear the governor’s office offer so much support for Kentucky agriculture because farming has been his life's work.
"You feel like agriculture is a declining occupation, but for us it's been increasing since me and my wife got married 20 years ago [Tuesday]," Langley said, getting a laugh from the crowd for the plug.
Langley said many of his facilities have been funded in part through grant money, and he is glad to see that support continuing.
"I just think it's a really good thing for Kentucky agriculture to have people like this," he said.