With state road fund revenue expected to decline markedly in 2015, Kentucky Farm Bureau is placing a priority on working with the General Assembly to ensure adequate funding is available to maintain rural roads.
KFB concluded its 95th annual meeting last week with its board of directors approving condensed lists of priority issues for 2015.
Most of KFB’s chief concerns are ongoing, including maintaining funding for the state’s agricultural development initiative and opposing any attempt to freeze the state real property tax rate. But those and other key issues for the farm group are not expected to surface in the upcoming 30-day “off-year” legislative session.
KFB, however, is highly concerned about the rural road fund because of a forecast of a more than $129 million reduction in revenues next year as a result of lower gas prices.
“The safe and timely transportation of our farm commodities is important to our farm economy and rural communities,” said KFB President Mark Haney. “It is vital that the state has sufficient resources to maintain our roads and bridges.”
KFB has longstanding policy supporting the 22.2 percent allocation of state gasoline tax revenue for rural roads. The annual amount of road fund revenue generated by the state gas tax is determined by a variable rate, which currently is declining.
U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell also expressed concern about Kentucky’s infrastructure during his keynote remarks at the closing business session. The forthcoming Senate Majority Leader noted how declining fuel tax revenues were impacting budgets for new or improved roads. He mentioned “a decaying infrastructure” among a lengthy list of issues that Congress needs to address.
Haney, a Pulaski County farmer who was re-elected to the president’s position Saturday, said KFB wants to work with state lawmakers on a policy to bring more stability to the road fund revenues.
Among KFB’s national “priority” issues is changing the guidelines under which farmers can combat the predation of livestock by black vultures. In recent months there have been widespread reports of the vultures killing calves and cows. The black vulture is protected under the federal Migratory Bird Act, meaning that farmers need to obtain special permits from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to kill the predators. Wildlife damage to crops and livestock, in fact, has surfaced in recent years as a big problem for Kentucky farmers.
Speaking at KFB’s Public Affairs Breakfast on Saturday, Second District Congressman Brett Guthrie acknowledged the problem and vowed to help the organization resolve the problem through federal policy.