Rena Childers

In light of news that the Chilean government canceled the APEC summit, farmers and their families have responded with concern for the ongoing viability of the industry. 

Major world trading partners, including the United States and China, were to meet and sign a partial trade deal that would have addressed hefty import restrictions levied on agricultural goods and consumer products over the past few months. In Kentucky, where soybean farmers have borne the brunt of this trade war, a number of elected officials, candidates and organizations have expressed their commitment to the preservation of small-scale farming.

While unrelenting negativity seems to dominate the news cycle, I wanted to, instead, spend some time reflecting on the people and programs enacting change in our state. I am thankful for a number of these organizations and individuals who have allowed my fellow Kentuckians and me to lead healthy, fulfilling lives. I want to highlight three organizations that have inspired me with their generosity, determination and boundless idealism. 

In 2017, Gov. Matt Bevin announced his intention of rolling back the Medicaid expansion implemented under Obama’s administration. As one of the states with the largest reduction in the number of uninsured people, Kentucky served as a prime example of the possibilities implicit in comprehensive health care coverage. Since that time, Bevin has fought to deconstruct the health care system in Kentucky, advocating for burdensome work requirements, lower income eligibility and limits on preventative service provision. But we have responded by taking the higher ground, demonstrating time and time again our commitment to guaranteeing inclusive, accessible health care to all Kentuckians.

Organizations like Mountain Comprehensive Health Corp., Appalachian Kentucky Health Care Access Network and the Kentucky Primary Care Association are working to fill the gaps in health care provision, focusing on underserved members of our communities. Their vision, and the work of those employed by these organizations, has dramatically improved the lives of so many Kentuckians, and I am unspeakably thankful for their presence in our state.

Access to medical care is only one (albeit important) part of a larger system that promotes health and well-being. Our farmers are integral to our security and prosperity. I feel incredibly fortunate to have access to fresh produce grown by family members and neighbors. Thanks to the hard work and innovation of our state’s farmers, many of us enjoyed delicious Thanksgiving dinners composed of the produce harvested on our land. This privilege, once considered run-of-the-mill, is now threatened by a sharp decline in the small farm sector. Our farmers’ livelihoods are endangered by unfair market practices and corporate lobbies.

Some farmers, and representatives of the farming industry, have taken a stand against these affronts. One such individual, Robert Haley Conway, candidate for Kentucky agricultural commissioner, continuously expressed his dedication to the reinvigoration of our family farms. In his detailed farm plan, Conway advanced the idea of transitioning a declining tobacco industry into one which focuses on cannabis production. On just one acre of land, a Kentucky farmer growing marijuana could make up to $40,000 a year. This would mark an exponential increase from the average $10,000 revenue made annually by 66% of all Kentucky farmers.

I am thankful for candidates who do not fall prey to corporate lobbies and arbitrary political disputes. Candidates like Conway run to ensure we all have a voice at the State Capitol. These organizations and individuals deserve notice for the programs and policies they continue to support, despite facing administrative hostility and significant obstacles. I am thankful for their unwavering voices, loud and clear, amid seemingly endless negativity in the news cycle. 

We should all take a moment to consider the privileges we enjoy and how we might extend those privileges to others. As always, policy is at the core of these issues. In order to guarantee inclusive health care access and protect our small family farms, we must band together and elect leaders who listen to the needs of all Kentuckians, rather than a select few.

Rena Childers was born and raised in Lexington and is a senior in college studying international relations and comparative politics. She can be reached at 16childersr@gmail.com.

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