Hamming it up: Kentucky politicos gather for Kentucky Farm Bureau breakfast

Published 10:30 am Friday, August 25, 2023

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By McKenna Horsley

Kentucky Lantern

Per Kentucky State Fair tradition, the Kentucky Farm Bureau Country Ham Breakfast brought political rivals under one roof as an 18-pound prize-winning country ham was auctioned off for a charitable donation.

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Coal executive Joe Craft and his wife, former United Nations Ambassador Kelly Craft, joined Central Bank in making a record $10 million bid on the Grand Champion Country Ham. The funds will support various needs across Kentucky, including building 57 new homes in Knott County for families affected by 2022 floods.

Kelly Craft said in a press release she and her husband were “extremely excited” to be part of the bidders on the prize-winning ham. Last year, the Crafts and the bank made a winning $5 million bid on a ham.

“Giving back to those in need is the Kentucky way, and as lifelong Kentuckians we will always do everything we can to improve lives across Kentucky,” she said.

The breakfast takes place on the grounds of the Kentucky State Fair. Kelly Craft finished third in the Republican gubernatorial primary earlier this year.

Incumbent Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear spoke of unity, as he often does on the campaign trail. He renewed his emphasis on economic and infrastructure developments throughout his first term, such as plans to build the Brent Spence Bridge in Northern Kentucky without tolls and new businesses opening in the state.

“Our administration continues to be focused not on moving this state to the right or the left but moving it forward for all of our families,” the governor said.

At a table a few feet from the stage, Attorney General Daniel Cameron, the Republican candidate for governor, listened but did not address the crowd. Afterwards when talking to reporters, Cameron criticized Beshear for his policies on crime, education and workforce development. He also noted that Beshear did not attend Kentucky Farm Bureau’s Measure-the-Candidate forum for gubernatorial candidates last month. Cameron did speak at that event.

“It’s oftentimes he comes to these events to lecture Kentuckians,” Cameron said. “When he had an opportunity to talk about his views and espouse those in front of the Kentucky Farm Bureau at the forum, he didn’t do that.”

“It’s oftentimes he comes to these events to lecture Kentuckians,” Cameron said. “When he had an opportunity to talk about his views and espouse those in front of the Kentucky Farm Bureau at the forum, he didn’t do that.”

Both of Kentucky’s United States senators, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul, addressed the crowd of more than 1,600 attendees.

McConnell, whose health has been the subject of speculation since he froze during a news conference in late July, has made a series of Kentucky appearances during the current congressional recess. He blamed federal spending to boost the economy during the coronavirus pandemic for inflation the country is now experiencing. He also briefly discussed the debate around the farm bill, which will reauthorize the nation’s agriculture and nutrition programs.

“You have to make compromises you didn’t want to make in order to protect agriculture because much of what the farm bill has to be is because the Democrats are really not interested in rural America anymore, or various food programs,” McConnell said before adding that he believed the bill will come together before the Sept. 30 deadline, which is when the 2018 version of the bill is set to expire.

Paul, who also spoke at the Jefferson County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner the night before, also touched on agriculture. He brought up former President Donald Trump without using his name but instead referring to him as a “guy who talked about making America great again.”

“In order to make America great again, you got to know what made America great,” Paul said. “How did we become this farming success? We became this farming success over a 250-year history with faith and family and freedom.”

A nod to his audience’s location, Paul opened with a quip that he dreamt that instead of Kentucky farmers being in charge of the breakfast, it had been left to the government and the Jefferson County Public Schools’ bus administrator. The school district has made headlines after new bus routes have caused hours-long delays in getting students home from school and also forced a delay in reopening schools after the chaotic first day.

Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles also noted the bus debacle in his remarks. He said Kentucky State Fair organizers quickly decided to offer a discounted entry rate to JCPS families and students, making this year’s fair “the largest classroom” in the state. Quarles added that the fair should consider doing it again in the future.

“My public service towards the commonwealth is just getting started,” he said. Quarles was a Republican primary candidate who came in second to Cameron and is serving his second term as commissioner.

Another speaker at the breakfast, Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg thanked lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for working with the city on various policies and added that he hoped that continues in the future.

“When I ran for office last year, my promise to the voters was to move our city in a new direction,” the mayor said. “And part of that direction is one where we embrace our connections to our neighbors all across the state of Kentucky to reset Louisville’s relationship with Frankfort and the rest of Kentucky.”