Farmers should embrace the responsibility of educating the public about how their food is raised and grown, Kentucky Farm Bureau President Mark Haney said during a keynote address at the organization’s 92nd annual meeting.

Haney, a Pulaski County farmer completing his third year as president of the state’s largest farm organization, said concerns about contemporary agriculture must be taken seriously. Consumers want to be reassured that farmers are treating animals well, protecting the environment and maintaining food quality and safety, he said.

“We must not let the activists and self-appointed food experts drive a wedge between us,” Haney said. “We cannot be idle when others are seeking to reshape our industry to fulfill their idea of how agriculture should look. We must do a better job of telling our story”

He noted that Kentucky Farm Bureau is among dozens of farm groups, including 18 state Farm Bureau organizations, involved with the United States Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA), an organization that has initiated a national public information campaign to link farmers with consumers.

USFRA has raised over $10 million and, among many projects, has conducted town hall meetings and forums with the news media, Haney explained.

While touching on a wide range of issues facing KFB in the year ahead, Haney warned that agriculture programs likely will be impacted by budget cuts to both state government and the federal farm bill, which is due for renewal in 2012.

KFB needs to support the work of the Livestock Care Standards Commission which is establishing animal care standards for livestock and poultry producers.

It also looks forward to working with newly-elected Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, Haney said, adding that Comer has a Farm Bureau background in Monroe County.

Another issue of concern, said Haney, is the U.S. Department of Labor’s proposed new regulations for young farm workers which could negatively impact operations on many family farms.

“We think this is another example of the government over-extending its reach and defying common sense,” he said.

The KFB leader expressed appreciation to county leaders for helping the organization expand its membership for the 50th consecutive year, to a record 506,749 members.

“Our combination of a well-operated insurance company and a grassroots farm organization continues to shine,” he said.

The organization also handed out numerous awards during the annual meeting. Michael and Nora McCain took home the young farmer award. Their story can be found at http://southeastfarmpress.com/management/michael-nora-mccain-win-kentucky-s-young-farmer-award.

Meanwhile, Jim and Ona Sidebottom won the Kentucky Farmer of the Year Award. Their story is at http://southeastfarmpress.com/livestock/jim-sidebottom-kentucky-farmer-year.

With more than 500,000 member families statewide, Kentucky Farm Bureau is the state’s largest farm organization.

Approximately 1,300 members attended KFB’s 92nd annual meeting, to recognize this year’s individual and organizational achievements as well as adopt policy for 2012.