Story and Images by: The Lane Report
According to the Kentucky Farm Bureau, Kentucky is home to 76,500 farms, good for No. 6 in the nation in number of farms, which raked in a peak of $2.74 billion in net farm income in 2013 to rank 16th in the United States.
The financial numbers put up by Kentucky’s farmers are impressive – especially considering average farm size is 170 acres compared to national average of 435. Of Kentucky’s 25.4 million acres, 13 million are farmland.
Some of those acres house the state’s agricultural processors and manufacturers that generate products for consumers in Kentucky and around the world. The more processors on Kentucky soil, the more value-add agribusiness revenue generated for the state.
“Kentucky already has numerous processors and manufacturers of agricultural products such as the Commonwealth Agri-Energy ethanol plant in Christian County, the Pilgrim’s Pride poultry processing plant in Graves County, Champion Pet Foods in Logan County, and Prairie Farms Dairy in Somerset, to name just a few,” said Kentucky Agricultural Commissioner Ryan Quarles. “Kentucky boasts the leading bourbon manufacturers in the world, and the industry is in a $1.2 billion construction boom.”
However, a key Department of Agriculture goal, being pursued with public and private partners, is to grow its processor, manufacturer and other agribusinesses sector. The state touts its low energy costs, spectacular logistics – within a day’s drive or two-hour flight from two-thirds of the U.S. population – and status as a right-to-work state. Other new reforms such as fewer regulations are a draw also, Quarles said.
Small producers and processors make up a vast majority of the actual agribusiness operation numbers in Kentucky, but the big ones like bourbon still make the biggest impact. Some 95 percent of the world’s bourbon is processed in the state, and upwards of 20 million bushels of corn are used by Kentucky’s bourbon and spirits industry.
Kentucky has other top national rankings. It’s No. 1 for tobacco and equine sales including stud fees, No. 4 for hay products, No. 7 in broiler poultry production, No. 14 in both corn and soybean production, and has the most beef cattle of any state east of the Mississippi. The commonwealth is the leading producer of hardwood sawlogs in the South and is in the top three in the country.