Kentucky has made its Ag Tag — the specialty license plate dedicated to helping the agricultural industry — one of the most broadly supportive of any state in the U.S. With a design that features logos from 4-H and FFA and the Kentucky Proud local foods icon, the money made off of the plate is split between supporting those youth organizations and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.
“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,” Jonathan Shell, the state’s agriculture commissioner, said in an op-ed posted on the Kentucky Department of Agriculture website. “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.”
These specialty plates have been around since 2012. While most U.S. states allow anyone to purchase the specialty plates of their choice, Kentucky’s website highlights some tighter eligibility standards: The state says these plates are available for any farmer engaged in the production of crops, livestock, or dairy products.
Most people thinking about Kentucky probably conjure images of horse racing — and that would be valid! Kentucky ranks first in the U.S. in both the thoroughbred horse breeding industry and in the value of sales. Beyond horses and mules, other top commodities include broiler/meat chickens, corn, cattle and calves, and soybeans. It is also the world’s largest burley tobacco market.
The state has more than 85,000 farms across 13.9 million acres.
Kentucky has seen the dollar amount climbing most years, with $10 from each specialty plate purchase going toward the three ag groups. In 2023, Kentucky farmers donated $735,815.88 through the license plate program, which was the largest amount ever in a year. That means 4-H, FFA, and the state ag agency each received $245,271.96 to invest back into 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,” Shell explained. “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 regularly 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 were 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.
“The future of agriculture starts with our youth,” Shell told Kentucky Today. “For years, people renewing their farm license plates have been given the opportunity to strengthen that future by donating to the Ag Tag fund. Through the years, millions have been donated, and our youth are the ones benefiting.”
This is part of a state-by-state series from AGDAILY that highlights agriculture-themed license plates nationwide. Read more articles from the series here.
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Author: Ryan Tipps