Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer says a University of Kentucky report identifies Kentucky Proud as a highly successful investment of the Commonwealth’s tobacco settlement funds.

The report says every dollar of tobacco settlement money invested in Kentucky Proud added $4.70 in additional farm income. Kentucky Proud was one of nine projects out of 64 large and medium-size non-model projects to receive a five-star rating in the report.

“The Agricultural Development Board was extremely wise to invest $5.3 million in Kentucky Proud, and this report bears that out,” Commissioner Farmer said. “But we’ve barely scratched the surface of this program’s potential to open new markets for Kentucky farm products and raise awareness among consumers. A greater investment is needed to build on the momentum the Kentucky Proud movement has generated, and this report proves the program is more than worthy.”

A five-star rating means all goals were accomplished and researchers found evidence of sustained impacts and indications that the benefits of the project were greater than the amount of the investment. The report says Kentucky Proud generates an additional $7.8 million in farm income per year.

“The Kentucky Proud state branding program is among the most successful in the nation,” UK researchers said in the report.

A group of 10 marketing experts assembled to discuss the Agricultural Development Board’s marketing investments found that “the Kentucky Proud program has been extremely successful and has had a large and positive impact.” The group attributed the impact to the work of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s marketing staff, which administers the Kentucky Proud program.

The Agricultural Development Board awarded a total of $5,329,300 for Kentucky Proud in 2003 and 2006.

The Kentucky Proud movement generated $120 million in retail sales of Kentucky farm products in 2006-2007. More than 1,300 farmers, processors, retailers, restaurants, farmers’ markets and state parks are members of Kentucky Proud.

The UK report examines the economic impact of $209 million in Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund investments from 2001-2007. It found that the $86 million invested in non-model projects — individual projects funded by the state Agricultural Development Board, including Kentucky Proud — generated $1.87 in new farm income for every $1 invested and impacted 50,000 Kentucky tobacco farmers.

County model programs — standardized programs that fund such projects as forage improvement, beef cattle genetics improvement and diversification — have been highly successful in improving producers’ knowledge, farming operations and net return and also helped many former tobacco producers, the report said. The county model programs have received $99.7 million in tobacco settlement funds.

The Kentucky Agricultural Finance Corporation — created by the Agricultural Development Board to provide farmers with access to capital — had approved 249 projects and committed more than $26 million by mid-2008, the report said.