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Farm/Garden: Comer hails hemp provision in federal farm bill

By Ted Sloan
News for Kentucky Department of Agriculture

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Agriculture Commissioner James Comer applauded news that the proposed federal farm bill contains language that would take a giant step toward restoring industrial hemp production to Kentucky and the nation.

"For months, we have tried to get some assurance at the federal level that Kentucky producers can grow industrial hemp without fear of government harassment or prosecution. This is what we've been waiting for," Commissioner Comer said. "I appreciate Sen. Mitch McConnell's efforts to get hemp language in the farm bill. Without his protection of the language, there is no way it would have survived the process. I'm also grateful to Sen. Rand Paul and Reps. John Yarmuth and Thomas Massie for supporting our efforts from the beginning. And I again want to thank state Sen. Paul Hornback for having the courage to sponsor Senate Bill 50, which makes industrial hemp production legal under Kentucky law."

The farm bill contains language that would allow state departments of agriculture and institutions of higher learning to conduct pilot hemp projects for research purposes in states such as Kentucky where hemp production is legal according to state law. The research must relate to growth, cultivation, and/or marketing of hemp. Sen. McConnell's top deputies quietly communicated with Kentucky Department of Agriculture senior staff for weeks on the progress with the hemp language.

On Wednesday, Commissioner Comer was working the phones talking with producers, processors, and members of the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission. The commission's chairman, Brian Furnish, was very gratified to hear this latest news.

"We still have work to do, and this isn't the end of the road, but it's unbelievable progress, and I could not be happier with this development," Furnish said. "I appreciate Sen. McConnell holding firm for Kentucky, and I believe the day is coming when we will see this crop completely restored to the Commonwealth."

The U.S. House of Representatives could take up the farm bill as early as Wednesday.

Commissioner Comer revived the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission in 2012 and has advocated for the restoration of industrial hemp production in Kentucky throughout his term as agriculture commissioner. He led a bipartisan effort to make hemp production legal under state law, and the Kentucky General Assembly passed SB 50 in the final hour of the 2013 legislative session.

UPDATE: The farm bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Jan. 29 by a 251-166 vote. It is expected to pass the Senate, possibly as early as Jan. 31.

This story was posted on 2014-01-31 15:02:02
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