Op-Ed from Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Dr. Ryan Quarles
It’s just $10 a year, but that money can help so many.
Every year, when farmers review their farm license plates, or “ag tags,” they have the opportunity to make a $10 donation. That money goes into a fund divided equally among Kentucky 4-H, Kentucky FFA, and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) to support Kentucky’s agriculture youth and other organizations and programs benefiting our farm families.
Last year, Kentucky farmers donated $606,223.11. From that total, each group received $202,074.37 to invest back into our communities for youth development and promotional programs.
During my time as your commissioner of agriculture, I’ve witnessed the generosity of Kentucky farmers. They’ve given during times of need of natural disasters, when a neighbor falls on hard times, or even when a friend needs a little extra help. One of the easiest donations a farmer can give is that $10 when they renew their farm tag. And over the years Kentucky farmers have done just that. They’ve given to help our next generation of farmers – our agriculture youth.
Since 2016, the first year I began serving as Kentucky’s Agriculture Commissioner, farmers have donated $4.3 million to the Ag Tag Program. That’s an enormous amount and gives me a sense of pride that today’s farmers care so much about the future of agriculture in Kentucky they are willing to give of their hard-earned money.
That unselfish willingness to help build and prepare Kentucky’s agriculture youth are predominant features of FFA and 4-H. They are two of the leading youth organizations in Kentucky and the nation. While they work to prepare youth to take on the challenges agriculture faces, KDA works every day to promote Kentucky’s farmers, inviting each resident in the commonwealth to realize the importance agriculture plays in the present and in the future. That future is Kentucky’s agriculture youth. That’s why this year’s Ag Tag campaign theme is “Your Donation. Your Community. Our Leaders.” Funding from your voluntary donations helps all three organizations fulfill our mission to sustain Kentucky agriculture for generations to come.
KDA uses its share of the Ag Tag funds for various programs, such as the Ag Athlete of the Year scholarships, the Kentucky Leopold Conservation Award, Kentucky Women in Agriculture, and Kentucky Agriculture and Environment in the Classroom.
Half of the 4-H and FFA donations are returned to local councils and chapters, meaning leaders in your community are able to use those funds to cover the cost of 4-H and FFA camp and other leadership programs for our youth. County 4-H councils use Ag Tag dollars to provide 4-H camp scholarships and travel for life-changing, educational experiences to enable local 4-H youth to grow as leaders and engaged citizens. FFA chapters were free to use the money to meet the greatest needs in their community, such as FFA jackets for students in need or helping cover travel costs to leadership events.
In the weeks to come, as many of you head back to your county clerk’s office to renew your Ag Tags, I hope you will make the $10 donation. Our record for Ag Tag collections in a single year is $731,627, which was set in 2021. Let’s try to break that record this year, at the same time, help ensure a bright future for Kentucky agriculture.