Quarles: ‘Ag tag’ donations help Kentucky youth

You are proud to be a farmer. That is why you buy farm license plates for your farm vehicles. When you renew your farm plates — or “ag tags” — you have the opportunity to make a voluntary donation to the Ag Tag Fund to help support and promote Kentucky agriculture

Proceeds from the fund are divided equally among Kentucky 4-H, Kentucky FFA, and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, for youth development and promotional programs. All these programs are essential for the future of Kentucky agriculture.

FFA and 4-H, as you are well aware, help mold Kentucky’s young people into productive, responsible citizens and leaders. Many of you participated in one or both of these organizations in your younger days. I would not be where I am today without the life lessons learned in 4-H and FFA, and I know many of you feel the same way.

Kentucky FFA has 15,025 members in 153 chapters. Kentucky 4-H has 279,451 members in hundreds of clubs across the Commonwealth. So it’s easy to see that these organizations have a tremendous influence on the future of Kentucky.

The Kentucky 4-H Foundation uses its portion of its Ag Tag funds to support statewide programs such as engineering events, the Issues Conference, the Performing Arts Troupe, the 4-H Summit, and state officer scholarships.

Kentucky FFA provides over $20,000 in grants to agriculture programs to make a capital investment in their curriculum or facilities. It provides $1,000 to each of the 12 FFA regions to recognize students at regional FFA banquets. It also supports statewide initiatives such as the Kentucky FFA website, state officer leadership development, and support for teacher educators at the university level.

As we celebrate National FFA Week Feb. 18-25, please consider how your voluntary ag tag donation helps this important organization.

Half of the 4-H and FFA funds go back to the county where the tag is purchased. County 4-H councils use the funds for local programming, paying for leadership and citizenship opportunities, funding 4-H camp scholarships, and other uses. FFA chapters receive Ag Tag support in the form of Ag Achiever grants, which cover capital improvements in agricultural education facilities and curriculum.

Kentucky farmers donated $552,712 to the Ag Tag fund in 2016 — $184,237 to each organization — a 2.3 percent increase over 2015. There is plenty of room to grow, and the need is great. This year’s Ag Tag poster features Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, who achieved historic greatness in 2015, and in the same fashion, your donation to the Ag Tag Fund is a Triple Crown winner for Kentucky’s future greatness. I hope you all will join me in making a voluntary donation to the Ag Tag fund.

Ryan Quarles is the Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture.