One out of every three jobs in Woodford County is associated with farming or with businesses that rely upon agriculture, according to a University of Kentucky study released Monday.
Those jobs generate $565 million in annual revenue and $1.1 million in payroll taxes on which local governments are increasingly dependent, the study said. About 14 percent of the properties in the county are farms, which generate $5.2 million in property taxes or about 25 percent of the total tax base, the study said.
The study, which cost about $30,000 to conduct, was sought by and prepared for Woodford Forward, Kentucky Performance Products, the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association and the Pisgah Community Historic Association. Woodford Forward is a nonprofit organization that promotes the highest and best use of urban and agricultural land; Kentucky Performance Products is a Versailles company that sells nutritional supplements for horses.
UK’s Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky has performed similar studies for Fayette and Christian counties, said agricultural economist Alison Davis. (The Fayette study released in 2013 found that agriculture accounts for one in nine jobs and $2.4 billion in annual revenue.)
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Of the 9,478 jobs in Woodford County, 2,783 are related directly or indirectly to agriculture, the most recent study said.
In the past, this type of study only looked at employment in production agriculture. This study expanded that view to include businesses dedicated to agriculture, such as feed companies, horseback riding and stables, distilleries and wineries, and veterinary operations.
The study quantifies the impact of agriculture and helps to build on the county’s strengths, said Benny Williams, a board member of Woodford Forward. The organization plans to disseminate the results in presentations to local civic groups, said Chase Milner, the new chief executive officer of Woodford Forward.
“It really does provide a snapshot in time as to why agriculture matters,” Milner said.
Preserving farmland and attracting jobs are twin goals that are often at odds in Woodford County. Sometimes the confrontation results in lawsuits, such as one pending in court that seeks to reverse the annexation of a farm on U.S. Route 60 east of Versailles. Developers had planned to use the site for new homes, businesses and a new hospital.
But the UK study “has nothing to do with a planning and zoning issue,” said Billy Van Pelt II, the former CEO of Woodford Forward who remains a board member of the group. “This has to do with the long-term economic vitality of all of Woodford County.”
Other interesting facts from the study: More than 4,400 people employed in Woodford live outside the county and travel to work in Woodford, according to 2013 Census data. Fayette County has 1,600 residents who commute to work in Woodford; Anderson County has 800 residents who work in Woodford.
Woodford County ranks second in Kentucky and third in the United States in the production of horses. Last year, 58 Woodford County stallions covered 7,210 mares. The stallion named Uncle Mo led in the number of times bred, with 253 last year. His listed stud fee is $75,000. In second was 2015 Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner American Pharoah. He was bred 208 times and had a listed stud fee of $200,000.