After the successful passage of his Industrial Hemp Bill this year, Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer is staying tight-lipped about his plans for the next legislative session, but Comer says rural economic development efforts need to be refocused around agriculture.
“I don’t think that the Economic Development Cabinet has been effective in promoting our rural communities,” Comer said. “They’ve done a great job promoting the communities with the infrastructure – the interstate exits, the rail, the rivers. They’ve done a good job promoting the communities with universities, where we have skilled and educated workforces. But when you look at the map of Kentucky, that leaves off the majority of Kentucky.”
Appearing at Thursday’s Murray Rotary Club meeting ahead of this weekend’s Fancy Farm Picnic in Graves County, Comer also declined to show his hand regarding a possible run for governor in 2015. Comer said he’s focused on his duties as Agriculture Commissioner.
One of those duties was putting forth a program featuring milk produced and processed in Kentucky, and Comer said sales are booming. Comer said Udderly Kentucky, which has only been on the shelves for five weeks, will be making its way to western Kentucky soon.
“The demand has exceeded our wildest expectations in the central Kentucky market,” Comer said. “We’re in the Lexington area, and in the Somerset area. Right now, in 32 different Walmarts. We want to be in every Walmart in Kentucky hopefully by the end of the fall.”
Comer estimates that the program is going to bring an extra $19,000 to each of the 105 Kentucky dairy farms that contribute. For now, Udderly Kentucky is available exclusively in Walmart stores, but Comer says he’s been contacted by retailers Kroger, Target and Costco about expansion.