During a campaign stop in Winchester this morning, B.D. Wilson, a Democratic candidate for commissioner of agriculture, said the Department of Agriculture should focus on innovation and serve as an economic engine.
Wilson, who spoke to about 40 locals at the Cantukee Diner, pledged to support existing agriculture while searching out new opportunities in alternative fuels, agribusiness and agritourism.
“You’ve got to think outside of the box, and you’ve got to be innovative,” he said. “We
have to find new markets for tobacco. We have to find new markets for cattle. We have to find new markets for soy beans and corn in western Kentucky.”
He also pointed to the state’s youth as a high-ranking priority in his vision for the department.
“We’ve got to take the number one commodity that we have in this state, and that is our youth, and we’ve got to make sure our youth have the opportunity to succeed in farming if they so desire,” he said.
Wilson, who recently served as rural highways commissioner for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet for three years, is competing in a crowded primary against four other candidates this May.
He is a former county-judge executive in Montgomery County who has owned stockyards and raised cattle and tobacco. His daughter and son-in-law also farm in Clark County.
During his talk, Wilson called on lawmakers to remove the sales tax on horse feed and questioned why Kentucky residents pay sales taxes when claiming a horse at the Keeneland sale, while the tax does not apply to those who live outside the state.
“The horse industry is our signature industry, and folks, it is failing right now,” he said. “We have got to do something.”
Wilson also committed to protecting consumers at the gas pumps, supermarkets and the state fairs.
“We’ll make sure that we hire qualified people, and we will also make sure that they are highly trained to be able to do their job,” he said.
The candidate opposes the idea of a statewide smoking ban and said the issue should be left up to local communities. Wilson said he did not support a 2003 ban in Montgomery County, and a ban would harm tobacco growers.
The agricultural commissioner’s seat opened this election cycle as Commissioner Richie Farmer reached his term limit. Farmer is running for lieutenant governor in the Republican primary with Senate President David Williams topping the ticket.
Also vying for commissioner of agriculture in the Democratic primary are Bob Farmer of Louisville, Stewart Gritton of Lawrenceburg, John Lackey of Richmond and David Williams of Glasgow. James Cromer of Frankfort and Rob Rothenburger of Shelbyville are competing on the Republican side.
According to the latest figures from the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, Wilson has raised close to $49,000 and spent around $25,500 so far.
“I have a record,” he said. “I’m running on that record and I am proud of it.”
Contact Mike Wynn at email@example.com.