Like thousands of Kentuckians, I spend most of my time on the farm. If there’s one constant about farming, it’s the way farmers adapt and change every day using the latest technology. Over the course of my dad’s life he went from following a mule to a tractor with GPS auto steering.
When I started raising pigs more than forty years ago, my back was strong and sweaty. A lot of times we end up with a frustratingly small yield at the end of a season.
Today, my daughter in Breckenridge County operates her state-of-the-art chicken coop through an app on her phone. If the temperature is 1 degree too low, she is notified and can adjust the heater and fan to maintain the ideal environment. Today’s chicken farmers know exactly how much each chicken eats and drinks each day when monitoring the performance of their birds.
On dairy farms, robotic milkers accurately record the output of each cow. The technology can even detect if a cow has a mild fever. If the milk is deemed inferior, the robotic computer automatically dumps the milk. It can identify potentially sick cows before they develop obvious symptoms, allowing her to be treated before she becomes ill.
Owensboro scientists have used the latest laboratory technology to develop an Ebola vaccine from tobacco plants. Researchers at the University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture are studying a new crop with potential cancer treatments in our Commonwealth.
In times of increasing labor shortages, especially in agriculture, automation and innovation are key to making farming an ideal and meaningful career path for the next generation.
Greenhouse and high tunnel technology gives farmers the tools to maximize profits, improve food safety and keep Kentucky’s agricultural heritage alive. This means we can grow food 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We’re not just feeding our neighbors in Kentucky. We are feeding the world. All these years ago, I would never have believed that the US would export 30% of its pork to countries around the world. But as agricultural technology advances, that’s exactly what we’re doing.
For more than 20 years, I’ve had the privilege of knowing and supporting the cutting edge of Kentucky’s agricultural technology in Frankfurt. I look at farming from many different angles—from high-tech aquaponics greenhouses in the west to social media posts about a local farmers market in the mountains of eastern Kentucky. Every day, I see farmers pushing the boundaries of the future while increasing yields, healthier and more stable crops and livestock.
Supporting the continued development of agricultural technology in Kentucky is critical as farmers are required to produce more with less land.
Unfortunately, there are those in Washington who want to impose new regulations on the technology we use every day. Anti-innovation legislation targeting the U.S. tech industry makes no sense. Farmers rely on the internet and digital tools every day to make marketing decisions, weather conditions and news that can affect their livelihoods. They rely on technological advances in genetics, nutrition, environmental adaptation, and all types of engineering. Any regulations that limit domestic technological innovation will in turn lead to lower farm profits and higher store prices.
Farm families in Kentucky are facing many enormous challenges right now, and I am incredibly proud of the men and women who work hard to meet them every day. Now is the time to add another unnecessary burden. Washington needs to drop its attacks on agriculture and technology. It should happen immediately.
Agricultural production in Kentucky is at an all-time high. Agriculture in Kentucky has never been better and we learn something every day. I am proud of farm families and their eagerness to learn and adapt to never-ending technological advancements to feed changing consumers. I am proud to be a cheerleader for farming. COVID has revealed how important farming is when shelves are a little empty. Keeping those shelves full requires every ounce of new technology we can find. Limiting this development prevents progress at the farm level. Technology is the future of our farm and we should all work together.
Warren Beeler, known as “Mr. Kentucky Agriculture,” is the former executive director of the Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy. He lives on a farm in Grayson County.