PDT Staff Writer
FRANKFORT — The Tobacco Settlement Fund Oversight Committee held its monthly meeting Wednesday in Frankfort.
The committee has jurisdiction on the usage of the funds the state receives as a part of the Master Settlement Agreement. Senator Robin Webb, D-Grayson, whose district includes Greenup and Lewis Counties, was one of the original drafters of House Bill 61 in 2002 when she was a member of the Kentucky House of Representatives. That bill created the Tobacco Settlement Funds.
The committee receives a report each month from the Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy, the administrative body for the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board, which awards grants and loans from the agriculture-designated portion of the funds.
Wednesday, the committee also heard from Aleta Botts, the executive director of the Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development, based in Elizabethtown. Botts gave a presentation on KCARD, which provides a range of services, including technical assistance, educational opportunities, and business support, to agricultural and rural businesses in the state. The services are provided to large and small businesses and to entrepreneurs who are new to the business and who have been in business for decades. The three main categories of services are business development, business maintenance, and support and educational opportunities and training.
She said in each of the past three years, KCARD has provided assistance to almost 100 Kentucky businesses and cooperatives working in the agriculture and food sector and in rural areas of the state. On average, Botts said KCARD’s assistance annually results in saving 775 jobs and creating about 54 new jobs.
Botts said the demand for KCARD continues to grow.
Webb discussed the impact of federal and state budget cuts on agriculture and the importance to sustain resource support to our farmers and ranchers.
She said some of the challenges currently facing the program are the growing demand for services: limited staff and capacity; more opportunities for producers; declining resources generally, and cultivating a sense of value for planning.
In other business at Wednesday’s Tobacco Oversight meeting, Roger Thomas, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy, and GOAP staff, reported on the projects considered for funding during the April meeting of the Agricultural Development Board.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.