Farm Bureau members got a chance Thursday night to find out where the four Republicans vying for state Rep. Danny Ford's seat stand on issues most important to farms and agriculture.
Roger Coldiron, Jerry Sheldon, David Meade and Mark Eaton were essentially unanimous in their support for Farm Bureau's position on 11 different topics.
Funding state agriculture cost-sharing programs, making sure grain elevator insurance plans remain in place, promising to fully fund the department of agriculture, protecting sales tax exemptions that benefit farmers, maintaining road funds and managing wildlife appropriately were just some of the areas all four candidates were in agreement with Lincoln and Rockcastle County farm bureaus.
The following is a summary of some of the highlights from what each candidate said.
On the issue of providing additional funding for completion of a new facility for the Breathitt Veterinary Center, Coldiron, a Rockcastle County resident, said "conceptually," he thought it was "probably a superb idea," but declined to fully commit until he had studied the plans more to make sure it was the best use of funds.
Coldiron also said maintaining the amount of funds that go to agriculture from the tobacco master settlement at 50 percent "does not seem unreasonable," but he would like to see the details of the bill in question.
Coldiron suggested hemp crops may be a good way for Kentucky farmers to make money, if the controversy surrounding hemp and the federal laws prohibiting it can be dealt with.
"I know there's a lot of controversy over the issue but … it's at least as good a cash crop as tobacco," he said.
Coldiron was strongly supportive of emphasizing state career and technical education programs. Such programs are one of his primary campaign issues, he said.
"We need to teach them a skill," he said. "That way, if they can't afford to go to college, maybe they can work."
Shelton was perhaps the most short-winded of the four candidates. Shelton kept most of his answers to a few sentences at most, providing a one-word answer — "yes" — to the idea that technical and career programs are an important priority.
On the issue of property rights and eminent domain, Shelton said, "your property is your property and I don't care what you do with yours if you don't care what I do with mine," eliciting laughs from the audience.
When talking about House Bill 44, which works to limit annual property tax increases to no more than 4 percent, Shelton said he strongly dislikes any increase in taxes and thinks revenues should be increased by growing the economy rather than raising taxes.
"I hate taxes more than the Lord hates sin," he said. "And that's a pretty big statement."
Shelton, a farmer from Crab Orchard, stated and re-stated many times during the discussion his support for farmers like himself.
"I support any program that's going to protect farmers," he said during discussion of grain elevator and inspection programs.
Meade, a Stanford resident, said debt service that gets pulled out of tobacco master settlement funds reduces how much money is available to be put into agriculture. He would like to see the debt service costs covered elsewhere so more of the settlement money would be freed up.