A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Opinion – Jonathan Shell: Make an impact in Ky agriculture by donating to state’s ‘Ag Tag’ fund

Small things can make a lasting impact.

It’s one of the things I learned early in life while riding around the farm with my grandfather. We talked about a lot of things in that truck while we worked side by side. I’m not sure if he understood the impact his influence had on my young impressionable mind, but it was there.

I was lucky to work with my parents and grandparents on the farm. My life lessons started with my family but continued when I joined FFA in high school. Both my dad and grandfather were FFA members, so it was natural that I joined as well. I want my kids to join FFA when they get older. It’s a program I fully believe creates lifelong bonds and experiences.

The same can be said for 4-H and the experiences it allows kids to have making a lasting impact on their lives. 4-H and FFA are two youth programs that are at the forefront of the future of Kentucky agriculture, providing direction in life for many of our influential young people.

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Jonathan Shell (Photo from KDA0

You can make that lasting impact as well, by donating to Kentucky 4-H and Kentucky FFA when you buy or renew your farm license plate, or “Ag Tags” this year. When renewing your plate, you have the opportunity to make a $10 donation. It’s a small amount that can make a huge difference and one of the easiest ways to give back to the community and the future of agriculture.

The money from the “Ag Tag” donations 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 $735,815.88, the largest amount ever in a single year. From that total, each group received $ $245,271.96 to invest back into our communities for youth development and promotional programs.

The KDA uses its share of the Ag Tag funds for various programs such as the Ag Athlete of the Year awards, the Kentucky Leopold Conservation Award, Kentucky Women in Agriculture, and the University of Kentucky Grain and Forage Center of Excellence.

Half of the 4-H and FFA donations are returned to local councils and chapters, meaning leaders in your community can 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 are 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.

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 “Elevating Leaders.” Funding from your voluntary donations helps all three organizations fulfill our mission to sustain Kentucky agriculture for generations to come.

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 $735,815.88, which was set last year. Let’s try to break that record this year, while at the same time helping to ensure a bright future for Kentucky agriculture.

Jonathan Shell serves as Kentucky’s Commissioner of Agriculture.

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