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Kentucky Proud produces jobs, economic activity

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By The Staff

A lot of people ask me, "What is Kentucky Proud?" What is its purpose? What does it mean that a product is “Kentucky Proud?” What has Kentucky Proud done for Kentucky agriculture and Kentucky’s economy?"

Kentucky Proud is one of Kentucky’s greatest economic development success stories in decades. Thanks to Kentucky Proud, many family farms have been saved, and numerous tobacco farmers have made a successful transition to other products. Kentucky Proud has produced jobs and economic activity in communities large and small throughout the Commonwealth.

Kentucky Proud is the official state farm marketing program. Kentucky Proud products are raised, grown and/or processed in Kentucky by Kentuckians. The Kentucky Department of Agriculture, which runs the program, provides marketing assistance, advertising cost-share funds, point-of-sale promotional items and many other services to Kentucky Proud members.

Kentucky Proud was responsible for an estimated $250 million in retail sales of Kentucky farm products through member retailers in the past three years. A 2008 University of Kentucky study found that every $1 the Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund invested in Kentucky Proud returned up to $4.70 in new farm income. Kentucky Proud has grown from a few dozen members when I took office in 2004 to more than 1,800 farmers, processors, retailers, restaurants, farmers’ markets, Kentucky Farm Bureau roadside markets and Kentucky state parks.

The program’s diversity is a big reason for its success. Kentucky Proud includes farmers and businesses of every size. Hundreds of products, such as fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy products, salsas, sauces, landscaping products, baked goods and wines, bear the distinctive blue, green and red Kentucky Proud label.

Growers who sell at Kentucky’s 137 farmers’ markets provide farm-fresh products and also give consumers the rare opportunity to meet the people who grow their food, which many shoppers value greatly. Other small producers grow, raise and make unique foods that have a dedicated base of consumers willing to pay a little more for such products as organic vegetables, artisan cheese and grass-fed beef.

Large Kentucky Proud businesses buy raw products from Kentucky farmers, helping them stay on the farm while providing badly needed jobs in Kentucky cities and towns. Fluid milk, fruits, vegetables, cattle, hogs and other products are processed into value-added foods that show up in stores all over the Commonwealth and beyond. The new Kentucky Proud distribution network – a partnership of three Kentucky-based, family-owned food distributors – will greatly expand the reach of some of these products, generating more jobs and farm income.

Kentucky Proud’s goals are to increase farm income and generate economic development. Kentucky Proud does not promote a specific agricultural agenda. There is plenty of room for all kinds of producers and food businesses.

Agriculture and agriculture-related industries in Kentucky accounted for $42.1 billion in economic output and more than 270,000 jobs in 2007, according to a UK study. It’s important to the health of the state’s overall economy that we have a prosperous and growing agriculture industry.  Kentucky Proud is leading the way.