KY Country Ham Breakfast: political speeches and one record-breaking ham

Published 5:30 pm Wednesday, August 30, 2023

By Sarah Michels, Bluegrass Live

For the most part, the Kentucky State Fair was quiet early Thursday morning as people set up their stations and prepared for the day.

But inside the Expo Center, the 1,600 attendees of the Kentucky Farm Bureau’s 59th annual Kentucky Country Ham Breakfast were anything but calm as the prized ham was auctioned off for a record-breaking $10 million.

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For the third consecutive year, Joe and Kelly Craft make a joint bid with Central Bank to win the 18-pound country ham, which came from Ronnie and Beth Drennan of Broadbent B and B Food.

In 2021, they won with a combined $4.8 million bid, and in 2022, a $5 million bid.

The auction proceeds go to charities of the winners’ choice. The Craft’s $5 million portion will help out Boys and Girls Clubs, build 57 homes in Knott County for continued flood recovery and fund a mental health initiative to be announced later this year.

Central Bank’s half will be divided between Transylvania University and various University of Kentucky groups, including UK Athletics, the Markey Cancer Center and the Gatton College of Business & Economics.

The record bid brings KFB’s total contribution to charity to $34 million since the breakfast’s debut.

Ham wasn’t the only item on the agenda Thursday. The annual event is also an opportunity for local, state and national Kentucky politicians to share what’s on their minds.

One of the main topics of conversation was the Farm Bill, a piece of legislation Congress has to reauthorize every five years that sets national agriculture, nutrition, conservation and forestry policy.

It includes funding for food assistance programs, broadband and rural development, agriculture research, conservation programs and crop insurance, said KFB President Mark Haney.

The 2023 deadline is a month away, and Haney emphasized the need to strike a deal to protect Kentucky’s farmers.

“Food security is national security, and that is why passage of a farm bill remains a priority for our organization,” he said. “… The day is long gone that most farmers have enough money in the bank to be able to do it all without some sort of a safety net.”

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also weighed in. He said that as the only one of the four top Congressional leaders not from New York or California, he will be the one looking out for rural and small town America.

Agricultural Commissioner Ryan Quarles used the opportunity to share highlights of his record during his two terms as Kentucky’s agriculture leader.

He said that during his tenure, Kentucky has raised $5.1 million for agricultural education programs, increased Kentucky Proud brandingnand achieved an all-time high of $8 billion in farm cash receipts.

“We did all of this, while at the same time shrinking the size of government and doing more with less,” Quarles said.

“And perhaps my greatest accomplishment working with you is that by working with the Farm Bureau and being in this room, we have reduced hunger across the Commonwealth.”