With summer now in full swing, as the heat and humidity attest, Kentucky's agribusiness economy is showing unmistakable signs of growth. A number of recent news headlines suggest that progress is being made on several fronts.
Kentucky Kingdom at KEC
In Louisville, at the exposition center, Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay water park have sprung back to life, underwriting hundreds of summer jobs for the young and not so young alike. The determination of Louisville businessman and former park operator Ed Hart, combined with the vision and financial backing of the State Fair Board and local and state officials, have shed the mothballs that had encased the park during its years of idleness.
As a result, roller coasters are running, water slides are flowing and cash registers (remember those) are filling with new dollars from excited patrons. Visitors to this year's Kentucky State Fair who haven't yet seen the new attractions can check them out Aug. 14 to 24. The kingdom's rides will be open weekday afternoons and from noon to 9 on Saturday and Sunday.
Ethanol & NASCAR
About 50 miles or so up I-71 another new and growing Kentucky tradition filled up Kentucky Speedway with NASCAR fans the last weekend in June. Among the 100,000-plus racing enthusiasts were volunteers and staff of the Kentucky Corn Growers touting the benefits and savings associated with corn-based ethanol.
The most popular of the renewable fuels has helped power the racing machines of NASCAR for the past several years, using a Sunoco Green E 15 blend endorsed by the drivers and owners alike. All told, NASCAR has put 6 million miles on its racers using ethanol, a practice sure to continue through the next 6 million and beyond.
Hemp In Kentucky
About a month before the big race in Sparta, some University of Kentucky ag researchers were powering up tractors and planters to get the state's first industrial hemp crop in the ground since the World War II years in the 1940's.
Those hemp plants, now a couple of feet tall and growing at Spindletop Farm near Lexington, are the first payoff for years of work to remove federal and state restrictions on growing the crop, which provides raw material for a range of fiber, textile and seed derivative products.
Much credit for birthing the hemp research projects at UK and other colleges and private farms goes to state Ag Commissioner James Comer, with valuable assistance from the Kentucky General Assembly and the state's Congressional delegation.
Gary Huddleston | AIN Chairman