Air Quality In Kentucky: Can You Breathe Easy?

By Karyn Loughrin, CEDIK GIS Associate

Good air quality, while extremely important to people’s health, can be hard to measure. The air we walk through and breathe is full of millions of different particles, some of which are harmful. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has placed regulations on several specific pollutants to protect people’s health and the environment. Particulate matter is one such pollutant. There are two categories for particulate matter: inhalable coarse particles (PM10) and fine particle matter (PM2.5). Fine particle matter can be easily inhaled and lead to aggravated asthma, nonfatal heart attacks, and premature death in people with heart or lung disease.

We looked at the fine particulate matter levels in Kentucky using the 2011 CDC Wonder data and mapped the annual average levels by county.[1] These data are a combination of levels reported at the ground by monitors and information from a satellite that measures particles in the atmosphere.[2] Using both sets of data and an algorithm, the data were compiled into one continuous map. In 2011, the EPA regulation on PM2.5 was 15.0 µg/m. We found that while all counties were compliant, there were higher particulate matter levels in the southwestern part of the state—Christian, Caldwell, and Trigg counties had the three highest levels of particulate matter (Map 1).

PMKYs2Particulate matter has several sources; major ones include agriculture, fire, dust, and fuel combustion. Fuel combustion includes electrical generation, industrial boilers, residential, and commercial/industrial uses of fossil fuels. In 2011, agriculture was the main source of particulate matter in Kentucky counties with high levels (See Figure 1).Figure 1Agricultural sources of particulate matter are crop and livestock dust, fertilizer application, and livestock waste. In Southwestern Kentucky, the source is almost exclusively crop and livestock dust. Through tillage, dust particles are aerated and released into the air. Map 2 shows that, compared to other regions, the southwestern part of the state’s primary land use is agriculture. While certain tillage practices can reduce soil erosion from air and wind, it is unclear how much either no-till or conservation tillage are practiced in this region. Additionally, Map 2 shows that southwestern Kentucky has fewer trees, which are able to help stabilize soil and trap practical pollutants.[3] Both agricultural activity and fewer trees seem to be likely causes of higher levels of particulate matter in Southwestern Kentucky.

TreeCanopy

However, across the border in Tennessee, there are a group of counties with similar levels of particulate matter, yet the main source in Tennessee for 2011 was fuel combustion. When both Tennessee and Kentucky counties are combined, fuel combustion is the largest documented source for fine particulate matter in the two-state area. Perhaps it is no surprise then that the EPA cited the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in 2011 for violating the Clean Air Act at several of their fossil fuel plants.[4] Many of these plants fall in areas with high levels of particulate matter and may have contributed to these levels (See Map 3).PMTNKY

In subsequent years, the TVA has updated or scaled back production in some of their older plants. While overall emissions are being reduced, particulate levels due to fuel combustion may change little in southwestern Kentucky. The two busiest TVA power plants—which each process 20,000 tons of coal a day—are within 100 miles of each other.[5] The Cumberland Fossil Plant in Cumberland City, Tennessee resides close to the Kentucky/Tennessee border and the Paradise Fossil Plant is housed in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky.

Along with these observations, it must be noted that air quality is tricky to measure. However, it seems like the higher levels of particulate matter in the southwestern part of Kentucky are most likely a combination of the fossil fuel power plants and agricultural activities. In order to improve air quality, sources of pollution must be reduced and particle entrapment or absorption must be increased. This issue affects the health and well-being of residents in southwestern Kentucky and beyond as air pollutants can easily travel from one area to another.

[1] Data from http://www.countyhealthrankings.org/

[2] See http://modis-atmos.gsfc.nasa.gov/ for more information

[3] http://www.dnr.state.md.us/forests/publications/urban2.html

[4] http://www2.epa.gov/enforcement/tennessee-valley-authority-clean-air-act-settlement

[5] http://www.tva.com/

Overview of Kentucky Agriculture, part 2

Recently, CEDIK released the updated Agriculture & Food County Data Profiles (click here to see) for 120 Kentucky counties. Using data from the 2012 Census of Agriculture released last year from the US Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service (USDA/NASS), these profiles offer an overview of the agricultural industry and food system at the county level, but not for the entire state. So in this blog post, we examine some additional data across all of Kentucky.

First, let’s take a short look at land area designated for agriculture purposes. The data show that nearly 52% of Kentucky’s land was designated as farmland in 2012. The map below illustrates differences in the percent of county land that is classified as farmland across Kentucky. Out of Kentucky’s 120 counties, at least half of the land in 71 counties is classified as farmland. Not surprisingly, the map shows that most county land is used for farming in Central Kentucky and select counties in Western Kentucky, while relatively little land is used for farming in Eastern Kentucky.FarmLandPercent

Now that we know where the farms are located, how many are there and how much are their sales? In 2012, there were 77,064 farms in Kentucky; USDA defined a farm as any place that produced and sold (or normally would have sold) $1,000 or more of agricultural products during the Census year. In 2012, the overall sales of these farms from crops, animals and related products was nearly $5.1 billion throughout Kentucky. From these, $2.8 billion (55%) came from sales of animals and animal products and $2.3 billion (45%) came from crop sales. While $5.1 billion is a lot of money, is it enough for every farmer to make a living? $5.1 billion in sales divided among 77,064 farms means that each farm, on average, made about $66,000 in sales, which does not include production costs.

However, we know that farm sales can vary significantly from the average depending on farm size and other factors. A closer look at the distribution of farms by the value of sales, presented in the graph bellow, illustrates that only 13% (10,222) of farms make more than $50,000 in sales per year. This suggests that the average of $66,000 in sales per farm is definitely skewed by a few very large farms that bring in a lot of revenue. In fact, out of those 10,222 farms that made more than $50,000 in annual sales, 6,340 have a sales volume greater than $100,000.FarmBySales

Again, one must keep in mind that we are considering sales here, not net receipts. If we assume that a farm’s profit to its owners (often, the farmer) is its annual sales plus other revenues minus production costs, then we speculate that perhaps 13% of Kentucky farms potentially earn enough in sales to make a living from the farm alone. Conversely, more than 63% (48,931) farms are very small in sales making less than $10,000 annually. Since there is likely little profit left after subtracting production costs, farms in this category most likely are not operated by not full-time farmers, but rather those who live on the farm and mostly work elsewhere. This may also be true for some of the farmers in the second group in the graph: those that make between $10,000 and $50,000 in sales. The distribution of farms by sales suggests that while farming takes up a large percentage of Kentucky’s land, a farmer’s dependence on the farm for a source of income may vary greatly between and within the counties.

Interested in a particular county? Check out CEDIK’s Agriculture & Food County Data Profiles by clicking here.

UK economic study snaps agriculture’s bigger picture

By Carol Lea Spence, University of Kentucky Agricultural Communication Specialist

A new CEDIK study has found agriculture’s total impact on Kentucky’s economy equaled $45.6 billion in 2013, an 8.3 percent increase over 2007’s figures.

The Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky study was authored by researcher Shaheer Burney and Professor Alison Davis of the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment’s Department of Agricultural Economics. They examined three aspects of agricultural activity: on-farm production, processing and agricultural inputs.

“It’s important to think of agriculture as a more comprehensive picture than just production,” said Davis, CEDIK’s Executive Director. “There can be a miscomprehension that, because there is not a significantly large number of on-farm workers, agriculture is an insignificant contribution to the state’s economy. Agriculture has a broader scope than just on-farm employment, and this study illustrates that.”

Total output for the entire agricultural industry crested $31.3 billion, accounting for nearly 8 percent of Kentucky’s total output. Output is measured by the dollar value, or market value, attached to the product. The sector employed nearly 136,000 workers, a 5.6 percent share of employment across all of Kentucky’s industries.

SalesValueAg_KYAll agricultural sectors, which include production, processing and manufacturing, added $2.8 billion to the economy in terms of labor and wages, accounting for 2.8 percent of total wages earned from all of Kentucky’s industries.

The average market value of agricultural products per farm increased from $56,586 to $65,755 and farm-related income rose by almost 60 percent from 2007 to 2012. Both factors helped to offset a 9 percent decrease in the number of farms and a 6.7 percent decrease in agricultural acreage in the state during the same period.

A goal of the study was to quantify agriculture’s multiplier effect, that is, the dollars generated from every dollar spent within the sector. Certain figures stood out in the researchers’ calculations. For every job within the agricultural inputs sector, an area that includes such things as fertilizer, feed and pesticides, 1.71 other jobs were created. Within the production sector, $8.09 was generated for every dollar spent to grow vegetable and melon crops, while cattle ranching generated an additional 43 cents and oilseed and grain crops generated an additional 44 cents from every dollar spent.

Taking into account the multiplier effect, production agriculture represents approximately $9.5 billion of output, 128,855 jobs, and almost $889 million in labor income. Including other agriculture-related industries, the researchers calculated that agriculture is responsible for 258,605 jobs in the state and $6.2 billion in labor income.

“Agriculture isn’t the only important industry in Kentucky,” Davis said. “Though it’s only 8 percent of the state’s total economy, that’s not a trivial amount. It’s important that Kentucky focuses on a diverse economy, and agriculture has an important part to play in that.”

The entire study is online at http://cedik.ca.uky.edu/files/REPORT_Importance_of_Ag_KY_2015.pdf.

Overview of Kentucky Agriculture, part 1

Recently, CEDIK released the updated Agriculture & Food County Data Profiles (click here to see) for 120 Kentucky counties. Using data from the 2012 Census of Agriculture released last year from the US Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service (USDA/NASS), these profiles offer an overview of the agricultural industry and food system at the county level, but not for the entire state. So in this blog post, we examine some of the data included in the Agriculture & Food County Profiles across all of Kentucky.

Kentucky Animal Sales by TypeWe started by examining the major categories of animal sales in Kentucky. While Kentucky is known as the Horse Capital of the World, horse sales along with breeding/stud fees only accounted for 19% of animal sales. Poultry and cattle were 40% and 37% of animal sales, respectively.

Next, we consideKentucky Crop Sales by Typered sales from crops and related products in 2012. When looking at the pie chart of crop sales, it is important to not that corn, soybean and wheat are often grown in rotation; together, they accounted for 72% of all crop sales. Tobacco also made a significant percentage of crop sales at 16%.

While these two pie charts provide a good overview of the types of sales for crops, animals and related products for Kentucky as a whole, they do not show how agricultural sales vary from county to county across the state of Kentucky. So we asked ourselves: in Kentucky, how do the counties vary by the volume of total sales? And do the counties vary based on the share of agricultural sales that come crop versus animal sales?

KY Counties by Volume and Source to Total Ag SalesThe map above shows Kentucky counties by the total volume of annual sales and the type/source of sales in 2012. The volume of annual sales for each county is represented by the size of the maroon circle located on it, with the smallest circles representing less than $25 million annual sales and the largest circles representing over $150 million in annual sales. The map shows that most agricultural sales are clustered around the Bluegrass (likely equine) and Western Kentucky (likely a mix of crops and poultry). On the other hand, most of Eastern Kentucky is comprised of small circles, indicating relatively fewer agricultural sales in 2012.

The type/source of sales for each county is represented by its color with green representing a majority share of crop sales, red representing a majority share of animal sales, and yellow falling somewhere in the middle. The map shows a high concentration of counties that rely heavily on sales from animals and animal products in Bluegrass (likely equine) and part of South-Central Kentucky area (likely cattle and poultry). Conversely, some counties in the Northern Kentucky and Western Kentucky bring in more in crops sales.

Interested in a particular county? Check out CEDIK’s Agriculture & Food County Data Profiles by clicking here.

Kentucky’s Retail Sector by Area Development District (ADD)

retail_sector_thumbnailCEDIK has released the fourth county profile in our data series.  This profile reports county level data on the retail sector of the county economy.  Our goal was to provide economic analysis of the retail sector, and to also provide explanation of the economic analyses used.  You can find all four of our county profiles on our website.

Data at the Area Development District (ADD) level was reported on each county profile as well.  However, the data for the 15 ADDs cannot be easily compared from the county data profiles themselves.  So we have provided some comparison of the retail sector across the ADDs in the tables and graphs below.

Let’s start by taking a look at the share of employment the retail sector provides for each ADD.  In the graph below, we see that as a whole, the retail sector in Kentucky provides 10.7% of all employment for the state.  The orange line across the chart shows us the statewide percentage.  There are only a few ADDs that have a higher share of their employment coming from the retail sector than the state average. Big Sandy ADD in particular stands out has having the largest share of employment coming from their retail sector of all the ADDs.

2010_ADD_Retail_Sector_Percent_Employ

Now let’s take a closer look at the ADD retail sector pull factors.  To refresh everyone’s memory, a pull factor measures a county’s ability to attract shoppers in the retail sector. If the pull factor is less than 1, its own residents are shopping in other counties. If greater than 1, the county is pulling in retail shoppers from other counties.

2010_ADD_Retail_Sector_PF

As you can see, most ADDs are able to attract shoppers into their area to make retail purchases (ADDs with a Pull Factor >1).  There are four ADDs though that are not able to capture enough retail shopping to equal their average resident’s spending on retail purchases (ADDs with a Pull Factor <1).  This means that these four ADDs have residents meeting some of their retail needs outside of the ADD.

This points to an opportunity for economic development for these ADDs.  How might an ADD work to attract more shoppers into their retail establishments?

CEDIK can assist communities with developing a retail strategy that attracts more shoppers. Contact us if you are interested in learning how.

CEDIK Research Blog

Welcome to the CEDIK (rhymes with ‘medic’) Research Blog! We are so glad you stopped by.

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