FRANKFORT – The Kentucky Soybean Board, in conjunction with the Kentucky Corn Growers and Kentucky Small Grain Council, hosted Energy and Environment Secretary Charles G. Snavely and his wife Shari on a series of farm tours July 6-7. Snavely, who was appointed to his post by Gov. Matt Bevin in December 2015, comes from a coal background and was eager to learn more about agriculture.
Secretary Snavely’s tour began in Shelbyville with a tour of Philip McCoun’s farm. A thirteenth generation farmer, McCoun raises soybeans, corn, canola, hay, and wheat. On the animal side, he raises beef cattle and has some sheep. To round out his operation, McCoun has some aquaculture production on his farm.
A Big Sandy Community and Technical College graduate, Snavely was able to ride along in a sprayer at McCoun’s farm, and he was quite impressed with the sophisticated technology that farmers use. His wife was surprised to learn that the majority of the liquid in the sprayer tank was water. During the second stop on the tour, Ryan Bivens’ Fresh Start Farms in Hodgenville, Snavely was able to experience auto-steer technology in one of Bivens’ tractors. He got up close and personal with a wide variety of equipment, and was fascinated by the variable-rate seeding and input application technology that has become the industry standard. Several farmer-leaders were on hand to answer questions.
Snavely assured the farmers that he does not propose increased regulation and was pleased to find that Kentucky’s farmers are leaders in ag water quality after learning of the development of the Ag Water Quality Act of 1994.
Thursday morning began with a tour of Gavilon Grain in Maceo, near Owensboro, where the Secretary learned about grain storage, movement and export. He was impressed with the way elevators test each load of grain before accepting it, and by the efficiencies involved in the grain-handling process.
The final stop on the tour was Sisk Farms near Hopkinsville. Joe Sisk had farm equipment on display as well as a scheduled tour of his farm, but flash-flooding in the area precluded his original plan. Tour attendees were joined by representatives from several Hopkinsville-area agribusiness for lunch at Sisk’s home, followed by a presentation explaining the science behind irrigation and how the data is recorded for each pivot. Sisk shared actual data for a fertilizer prescription for one of his 150-acre fields, further demonstrating for the Secretary how farmers put only what the crop needs, precisely where the crop needs it.
Mick Henderson of Commonwealth Agri-Energy joined the group at Sisk Farm, and unfortunately a tour of the local ethanol plant was abbreviated because of the weather.
Snavely shared with farmers how sincerely impressed he was with their use of technology – first at the high levels of technology available, and also with the way farmers have mastered the data collection process and learned how to effectively make the data collected meaningful and useful in their operations.
Snavely acquired a great deal of information in a short period of time, but one thing was clear – he was quite receptive to the farmers, their knowledge of inputs and water and technology, and he appreciated their dedication to making the land better and taking care of the environment.
For more information on soybean farming in Kentucky, visit www.kysoy.org.