Ky. Democrats hope to pin Bevin with past comments on farm bill in run-up to Ky. Farm Bureau forum

07/22/2015 02:46 PM

Republican gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin is taking lumps for critical comments he made about last year’s U.S. farm bill a day before he meets Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway at a gubernatorial forum hosted by the Kentucky Farm Bureau.

The Kentucky Democratic Party organized a conference call on Wednesday with two farmers supporting Conway’s candidacy, Democratic Harrison County Judge-Executive Alex Barnett and 2007 Democratic agriculture commissioner candidate David Neville. The trio heaped criticism on Bevin based on a February 2014 Associated Press report in which the Louisville investment manager said the country is “becoming more and more dependent on the government. This farm bill is yet another example of exactly that.”

He added, “Between the federal government’s massive overreach into the free markets and the fact that 80 percent of spending is going to welfare programs, this is a sad excuse for a farm bill.”

The $956 billion, 10-year spending plan covers about $756 billion in food stamps and nutrition with the remainder covering agrarian matters like commodity programs and crop insurance. Bevin’s comments came during his primary campaign against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2014.

While much of Bevin’s criticism of the bill appears aimed at the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Barnett said the Republican’s comments show that doesn’t share the agricultural industry’s interests.

“If Bevin was willing to oppose the farm bill for the sake of his political agenda, there’s no way farmers can trust him to look out for us as our governor,” Barnett said in the conference call.

Neville questioned Bevin’s understanding of agricultural issues and said the Republican “kind of scares folks a little bit.”

“His refusal to support the farm bill, it’s really a sign that he doesn’t have the best interests of farmers and Kentucky rural families at heart because the farm bill’s not just about those big farmers out west,” Neville said. “It does a lot for Kentucky farm families and rural families here in Kentucky.”

Bevin’s campaign manager, Ben Hartman, did not return a phone message seeking comment.

KDP Chairman Patrick Hughes also pointed to an April GOP primary debate in Jessamine County in which Bevin said Kentucky should “get rid of” tax expenditures, which is expected to cost the state nearly $10.8 billion in the current fiscal year, according to an analysis by the Office of the State Budget Director. KDP included a video recording of the Jessamine County forum in a news release following the conference call.

Bevin later called for “a significant reduction in tax exemptions,” according to a pre-primary voters’ guide by The Courier-Journal.

Of the $10.8 billion estimate, $358.2 million will come from exemptions in agricultural development, such as tax credits for fuel and water used on farms, agricultural machinery and livestock.

“There’s a long list of tax expenditures that benefit agriculture and Kentucky farmers,” Hughes said. “… That’s one of the issues beyond the farm bill where Matt Bevin is out of touch with what Kentucky farmers need and how we do business here.”

Conway and Bevin will meet 10 a.m. Thursday at KFB headquarters for the agency’s “Measure the Candidates” forum in Louisville.

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.


Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.