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Guest Opinion: New thinking about good jobs

Farmland price sets record increase

Forecast: moderation

Road trips

No-till gains popularity

Berea craft correction

Co-op Postcard: Stray voltage solutions


Share your dream vacation
Share your dream vacation
Tell us about a dream vacation you took—we might publish your story in Kentucky Living, and the three most interesting sets of stories and photos could win Kentucky Unbridled Spirit gift cards worth up to $250. Write your story in 250 words or fewer, along with pictures, and send it to Kentucky Living by January 28. We’ll print as many of your dream trips as we have room for in the April Kentucky Living.

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Guest Opinion: New thinking about good jobs


New thinking about good jobs

by Andrew C. Meko

Those of us in manufacturing despair over headlines like one recently: “More poverty, less health insurance.”

No one likes to see Kentucky workers or families in poverty or without health insurance. Kentucky’s manufacturing industry is doing something about it.

We pay workers enough to earn a good living.

According to a 2006 survey, tool-and-die makers earn $44,699 a year; maintenance mechanics $42,099; truck drivers $34,174; machine operators $36,628. And we provide affordable health insurance to families.

Manufacturing produces $29 billion in goods that are being shipped all over the world, about 21 percent of the gross state product.

To attack Kentucky’s poverty and health insurance problems, keep Kentucky’s existing manufacturers in Kentucky and lure others to the state.

Because Kentucky manufacturers are slugging it out in the global economy, it’s tempting to rush to low-wage markets like China, India, and Mexico.

While we can’t compete with their labor costs, we can out-produce and out-smart them with high-tech increases in efficiency and productivity.

This will require a sea change in how Kentucky’s leaders think about incentives.

We need to replace “old thinking” with “new thinking.” Old thinking: “The only good incentives are those that create jobs.” New thinking: “It’s good to keep the jobs that are already here.”

We need the same sea change for tax strategy. The governor and General Assembly took a step in the right direction last year to address Kentucky’s 44th-ranked business tax climate, but they didn’t go far enough. Old thinking: “Keep a heavy tax burden on manufacturers because it’s reliable revenue.” New thinking: “Make Kentucky’s business tax climate number- one so manufacturers will stay here and others will join them.”

We need enormous changes in education.

Job applicants increasingly don’t have a high school diploma, can’t pass a drug screen, do simple math, or solve problems with co-workers. Kentucky is 50th in percentage of adults with a high school diploma.

Old thinking: “Unless you have a college degree, you aren’t going places in life.” New thinking: “While a college degree is wonderful, it’s not for everyone. Let’s get kids to finish high school and graduate knowing basic math, reading, and problem-solving skills. Let’s steer more of them into learning a skilled trade through the Kentucky Community and Technical College System.”

Associated Industries of Kentucky, the voice of Kentucky manufacturers, believes a robust manufacturing industry is perhaps the most important key to a prosperous Kentucky and a higher standard of living for all Kentuckians. It’s a data-supported fact.

Andrew C. Meko is president and CEO of Associated Industries of Kentucky.

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Farmland price sets record increase

The price for agricultural land continues to rise in the United States with some states, including Kentucky, seeing double-digit increases.

Figures released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture this past fall show Kentucky’s farmland gained in value by 10 percent between 2005 and 2006. This is the largest percentage increase since 1980 and the largest dollar increase ever. The average price, according to the report, was $2,750 per acre in Kentucky and $1,900 an acre nationally.

To supplement the USDA numbers, an annual survey is taken of University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service agents. The survey data, collected by Richard Trimble, UK Extension agricultural economist, shows county agents estimate the overall value of the state’s farmland at $2,683 per acre. Regionally, farmland in eastern and western Kentucky was rated to have the highest values by agents at $2,757 and $2,742, respectively. Agents in central Kentucky estimated farmland to be worth an average of $2,525.

“Low interest rates, a robust economy, and a strong demand for farmland for nonagricultural uses have all contributed to the ongoing increase in farm real estate values,” Trimble says.

Favorable government farm programs and strong commodity prices also play a factor in increasing land demand as farmers look to expand, with limited acres available to do so.

Trimble says land values are expected to increase again in 2007.

—Laura Skillman, UK Extension

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Forecast: moderation


An electric co-op leader sees change in how the new Congress will approach energy issues

On Election Day last November, voters replaced enough Republicans with Democrats in the U.S. House and Senate to change the party in charge of Congress after 12 years of Republican control.

Shortly after the election, the head of the National Rural Electric Coopera-tive Association talked about how that change might affect energy policy, electric co-ops, and co-op members. Glenn English comes well-qualified for such a discussion. In addition to his 12 years as CEO of NRECA, he served more than 18 years as a member of the House of Representatives from Oklahoma.

Q: What do you see as the significance of last fall’s election results?
English:
It appears the American people are interested in voting for moderation. That would indicate they want their government to work. It would indicate they want the two parties to work together. And that would mean that, should this continue into 2008, we are getting back to a situation where most of the people of this country, Democrats or Republicans, are moderate people able to come together and meet the nation’s needs.

Q: How will elected officials in Washington respond to this mood of the voters?
English:
If you look at some of the Republicans who survived, they were moderate Republicans. The message the country may be sending is that they have had enough extremism out of both parties and that they want to get back to a government that works, a government that addresses problems. And they recognize that moderate people are most likely to deliver that for them. So we will see how the moderates address their new power. And we will find out whether people will ratify that theory in 2008 with the election of a president.

Q: The elections also brought changes at the state level. There are now 28 Democratic governors. What will this mean?
English:
After each 10-year census, states redraw congressional districts. After the last census, Republicans created districts that made it difficult for the Democrats to capture the House of Representatives. That’s probably why there wasn’t an even larger swing of 50 to 60 seats as opposed to the 30 to 35 that changed parties November 7. State legislatures draw the district lines. Republicans controlled state legislatures in 2000. If the Democrats are able to retain control of the state legislatures and governors’ seats through 2010, then it will be the Democrats who will have that opportunity. So there is a lot of political jockeying that has far-reaching consequences that take place in state legislatures.

Q: What will be the priorities for electric co-ops with the new Congress that begins in January 2007?
English:
One problem some co-ops have had relates to the “captive shipper” issue, where a power plant pays more for coal than it should because it is served by only one railroad. We had some effort on this in 2006, but I think we will have a much greater effort in 2007.

We will continue to work with Congress on the issue of climate change. Given the makeup of this new Congress, I think there may be a shift in the president’s position. We will have to deal with that in a way to minimize any kind of rate increases for electric co-op members.

There are renewable-energy issues and how that fits in with our overall supply of electricity. Questions of energy efficiency are going to figure into all of this debate. A new farm bill, which will have an energy title, is something that we will certainly be wrestling with.

One of the overriding issues is the need to build new electric generating plants over the next decade. We need to make sure our members have adequate power, and that we keep rates as low as we can.

Q: Will the new political environment in Washington be receptive to the electric co-op industry?
English:
I think it will. We have always positioned ourselves as being very responsible and solid. We find it easier to work in an environment that favors moderates. We don’t have a lot of extremists within the electric cooperative network. Moderation is something we do very well with.

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Road trips

A crop of new books offers several ways to enjoy Kentucky.

You can eat it, with Eating Your Way Across Kentucky—101 Must Places to Eat. Author Gary P. West, a contributor to Kentucky Living, slices the state into five regions to organize his recommendations. Each eatery gets two pages that include a description, house specialties, a couple photos, address, hours, phone numbers, price range, and area attractions. It sells for $19.95 and is published by Acclaim Press of Morley, Missouri.

One Tank Trips with Denny Trease puts into print Lexington’s WKYT TV features. The listing includes descriptions and maps for 55 Kentucky attractions, as well as a listing of state parks, resorts, and historic sites. Published by Back Home in Kentucky of Clay City and The Clark Group of Lexington, the book sells for $9.95.

For the hardier among you, The Best in Tent Camping by Johnny Molloy provides a detailed, how-to guide on roughing it at 50 of the more secluded campgrounds in Kentucky. Menasha Ridge Press of Birmingham, Alabama, published the book that sells for $14.95.

Louisvillian Brad Asher has put together the Kentucky version of On-The-Road Histories. From the first Kentuckians through civil rights people and places, the book traces the history of the state suitable for touring, covering well-known and lesser-known destinations. Interlink Publishing of Northampton, Massachusetts, plans to publish histories of each state. This one sells for $20.

And if there’s anything at all you want to know about Kentucky, you can find it in the second edition of Clark’s Kentucky Almanac and Book of Facts. Most of the 770 pages in this second edition have been updated, and it contains more than 300 new photos to cover top news stories, recreation and travel, sports, family trends, education, media, and a whole lot more. Published by The Clark Group of Lexington, it sells for $29.95 hardcover, $21.95 softcover.

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No-till gains popularity

No-till wheat production has increased in recent years. With high energy costs and a method that requires less equipment passes through the field, no-till likely will get even more scrutiny from farmers.

Scientists with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture have been doing research on no-till wheat for nearly two decades, beginning with small plots and expanding in recent years to large on-farm plots. The results have shown the method can be as productive as traditional tillage.

“If you farm and feel the pinch from extra fuel costs and want to make the change, I feel very comfortable with all the data we have,” says Lloyd Murdock, UK soils specialist.

When no-till research began in the late 1980s, only a few farmers in far western Kentucky were experimenting with the production method. At that time, almost all of the wheat planted for grain in Kentucky was produced using tillage.

In the first years of study, no-till practices tended to result in a slight yield reduction compared with tilled fields. But in the past seven years, that has changed with no-till wheat performing on par or even ahead of tilled wheat, Murdock says. Changes in soil structure from no-till practices along with improving varieties are some factors in the shift.

Over the years, research has focused not only on the impact no-till has on wheat yields, but also on its effects on subsequent soybean and corn crops. In general, about half the time one of the next two crops will see a bump in yields.

Farmers have been more reluctant to embrace no-till farming practices for wheat than corn and soybeans in Kentucky. They were somewhat reluctant to make the switch based solely on small plot research but with the larger on-farm work of recent years, that is changing, Murdock said.

Research shows no difference between the two tillage practices for wheat production. One of the cooperative farmers switched his traditional tilled wheat practices to no-till in all his fields except the test field after two years of participating in the field trials.

“Basically, he no-tills because he can save money,” Murdock says. “These farmers are proving to themselves that the system works.”
— Laura Skillman, UK Extension

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Berea craft correction

Kentucky Living misstated the year of the founding of Berea College in the November “Crafts from the Heart of the Mountains” Traveling Kentucky column. Berea College was founded in 1855. The year cited, 1893, actually marks the beginning of Fireside Weaving, the college’s first crafts program.

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Co-op Postcard: Stray voltage solutions

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