By Donna Carman, Editor, Casey
At her peak, Teresa Luttrell grew 80 acres of
tobacco. Two years ago, when that base was down to about half,
Luttrell knew that she’d better be finding another way
to supplement her income. That’s when she learned of
the newest model program available through the Casey
County Agriculture Development Council -- diversification.
“I applied when the funds became available,”
Luttrell said. “I knew that tobacco was going out and
I needed something.” That ‘something’ is
Ridgetop Greenhouses, now in its second season
across from Luttrell’s home on Thomas Ridge Spur Road.
And although it’s been hard work, Luttrell has not regretted
a minute of it. “I had wanted to start a greenhouse
for a while,” she said.
Luttrell said she went to the Casey County
Extension Office where then-agriculture agent Tommy Yankey
helped her research the project. She also contacted James
Young, who is the administrator for the Casey County
Cattlemen’s Association, the agency that administers
the genetics, cattle handling facilities, and diversification
programs for the county.
Unlike genetics and cattle handling facilities
-- where participants sign up on a list at the extension office
on a first-come, first-served basis -- those wishing to participate
in the diversification program must complete a lengthy application
and answer numerous questions.
“I had to explain how this was going
to help me and my family, benefit the community, employ other
people . . . there was a lot of paperwork to do,” Luttrell
said. But in the end, it was worth it, Luttrell said. She
received the maximum allowed, $5,000, which helped establish
Under the terms of the contract, she was required
to operate the greenhouse for two years. That agreement was
fulfilled this year, but Luttrell has no intentions of getting
out. “Nobody realizes how much you invest,” she
said, adding that it took about $75,000 to get it operational.
While the greenhouse is not the money-maker
tobacco was -- at least not yet -- Luttrell sees its potential.
Meanwhile, she’s still growing 26 acres of tobacco,
which is contracted to Philip Morris. “That’s
a gamble, actually. There’s no guarantee what you’re
going to get,” she said.
Luttrell is one of 21 local recipients of diversification
funds, which became available in late 2003. When participants
complete the requirements, which are inspected by Young, they
become eligible for half of what they have spent, up to $10,000.
Luttrell said her greenhouses did not have
any flowers in them, but other than that, were ready for business
when both Young and John Gossage, president of the Cattlemen’s
Association, came and inspected her project. “He was
very professional about it,” Luttrell said of Young.
Of the 21 who have completed the program, 16
received the maximum, according to Young. The average payout
to diversification participants has been $4,717. To date,
$99,058.83 has been paid out.
Those participating in cattle handling facilities
have been paid $460,795.57. The 150 participants received
an average payment of $3,072, with $5,000 as its maximum.
That program still has a waiting list of approximately 150,
according to Young.
At its June 28 meeting, the council appropriated
$125,000 for this program of the $317,000 it was allocated
in April. The open-end enrollment was also assigned a cut-off
date of July 31.
In the genetics program, which ended a funding
cycle on July 6, 224 participants have shared in $193,771.47.
Genetics has a maximum allowance of $1,250, with an average
payment totaling $861.
Money allocated in the genetics program was
used to help buy a bull or semen, Young said. That program
has now been discontinued in favor of providing additional
funds for cattle handling facilities.
According to records kept by Young, five participants
have benefited from all three programs administered by the
Cattlemen’s Association, while 75 have received funding
in two of the three programs. To date, the three programs
have served 315 people. Nearly from the time a list was formed
in 2001, the cattle handling facilities program has had a
waiting list. Some have been on the list for more than two
years, Young said.
“We had more applicants than we had money,
so we had to go into a waiting list mode. It’s been
that way since October 2001,” he said.
However, participants in the genetics program
-- which also began in 2001 -- have fared better. Young said
a waiting list formed only last year, but has now been cleared.
“We have money for all of it now,” he said, noting
that genetics has been cut off for new applicants.
Diversification was adopted as soon as it became
available in the county in the fall of 2003. The program’s
first recipient was funded that year, but the majority received
money last year.
“This is advertised in cycles. It is
not first-come, first-served, so there are not as many applicants
for this program as they have to submit a proposal . . . a
business plan,” he said.
In the five years that he’s been involved
in administering funds, Young said he’s heard many criticisms.
“One of the criticisms I’ve heard
is that people are getting too much money,” he said,
noting that the council could have set a lower cap on the
maximum awarded in each program. “But the way I see
it, it’s better to wait and get more where you can do
more, than to get less right away.”
Other criticisms have included both husbands
and wives receiving money, as well as a couple of teenagers,
and those who have more than one farm. ”We have had
some who may be operating on the farm of their parents or
another relative, and we’ve had people with multiple
farms too,” Young said.
He said an example is a husband who applies
under the genetics program on one farm while his wife applies
on another. And he said there was a case where a 15-year-old
boy was awarded money for genetics too. “He has his
own cattle. There’s nothing wrong with that,”
Young said the administrators first considered
not allowing husbands and wives to both apply for funds, but
officials at the Governor’s Office of Agriculture Policy
said it was allowed. He said the GOAP allows a husband and
wife to apply, but only for separate farms, and using separate
Social Security numbers.
When the Cattlemen’s Association first
became an administrator, Young said there was a three-person
committee for both the genetics program and cattle handling
facilities program. Young served on the latter.
“We went by committee for two to two and
a half years, but it was wearing us out. It served no real
purpose,” he said. Since most of those who served on
the committees also held full-time jobs, Young said it was
hard to find a convenient time to meet and approve applicants.
The committees then decided that two out of the three could
make the recommendation. That, too, soon wore thin.
“We discussed it and decided to move away
from that, deciding that either I or John Gossage would review
the farmers’ payments. When approved, Brent Ware [the
association’s treasurer] writes the checks,” Young
Young said he makes quarterly reports to the
GOAP, showing expenditures in each of the three programs.
Potential for fraud
As far as compliance by the participants, Young
said the state asks administrators to conduct spot checks.
“ I do not physically go out and count every fence post,
but I have been to every diversification program,” he
said. “And on cattle handling, I have seen about 12
to 15 of these.” [The program has given money to 150
Young said he mainly takes participants at
their word, as they have to have provided proof of their expenditures
for qualifying items before they are approved for payment
in a cost-share program.
“We have had people who didn’t meet
the criteria, but to say they were trying to commit fraud,
I can’t say that,” he said. “I have been
suspicious of things, but I have never approved anything like
Young admits there is the potential for fraud in the program,
but no more so than in any other government-subsidized program.
“We have fraud in Medicaid, don’t we?” he
By law, the Cattlemen’s Association is
allowed to take a 5 percent fee for administering each of
the three programs. Young said the association has not taken
He has, however, received $750 from the Cattlemen’s
Association itself for expenses he has incurred, such as telephone
bills, postage and envelopes. He noted both Gossage and Ware
have received $250 each for expenses as well.
“A lot of people in this county donate
their time for various things. This is mine,” he said.