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Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner: Current generation of farmers being tested like never before

Lisa Autry

A drought, inflation, supply chain disruptions, and increasing costs for fuel and fertilizer, are creating significant hardships on Kentucky famers.

In an interview with WKU Public Radio, Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said the food system hasn’t been tested to this degree since WWII.

“One of my biggest worries is that there’s a whole generation of Kentucky farmers that are my age that never knew what it was like to farm in the 1970s and 80s where we had stagflation, high interest rates combined with high inflation, gas shortages in the 70s," Quarles said. "So for us there’s a lot of learning from previous generations.”

While commodity prices are higher than a few years ago, farmers aren’t as profitable because of higher input costs.

On top of financial stressors, much of Kentucky is experiencing a moderate drought, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor.

To farmers, that means a lot more than brown lawns. Lack of rainfall is threatening the livelihoods of food growers and livestock producers.

Corn crops are most affected at this time by the drought. Quarles said Kentucky is also close to having a hay shortage.

“We’ve actually seen an uptick in the number of cattle sold. People don’t want to pay for scarcity of hay or the increased cost of hay.”

Conditions are still being assessed to determine if a drought disaster declaration will be requested. Declarations are typically made on a county-by-county basis based on projected losses, although a statewide declaration is possible.

A disaster designation from the USDA would make emergency loans available to producers suffering losses.

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum. She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years. Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville. She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky. Many of her stories have been heard on NPR.
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