By Ronnie Ellis
CNHI News Service
There they were together, both promoting a new five-year strategic plan for Kentucky agriculture.
But neither Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear nor Republican Commissioner of Agriculture Jamie Comer mentioned the word on so many minds in Frankfort these days: hemp.
The plan, developed by the Kentucky Agriculture Council (KAC), lists seven core strategies, none of them specifically tied to hemp: next generation farming; new market identification; regional agricultural and rural community development; agricultural education; consumer education; government policies; and policy-maker education.
But the printed plan also lists some “sidebars,” one of which is entitled “Opportunities for industrial hemp may promote continued diversification.”
Comer has made passage of a bill to authorize the regulation of hemp growing in Kentucky a priority but Beshear has voiced concerns about an available market for the biological relative of marijuana and law enforcement’s ability to distinguish between hemp and marijuana.
Currently the federal government bars cultivation of hemp but Kentucky’s Republican Senators, Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, have introduced legislation to end that federal ban.
Beshear said he endorses the effort by the agriculture community to be pro-active in searching for new markets and diversifying crops, but that doesn’t mean he agrees with Comer’s or others’ position on hemp.
“Hemp is certainly possible an example of diversification,” Beshear said. “We’ve got two issues we’ve got to address there; is there a market for it. I think there are some studies going on right now that might help us in that direction. And then there are law enforcement concerns. We need to solve both of those issues before we move hemp.”
The state Republican-controlled Senate has already passed a bill to set up a “regulatory framework” to license hemp growers and production in Kentucky but its prospects in the Democratic-controlled House are dicey.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, has questioned the economic benefit of growing hemp and says any economic benefits must be sufficient to out-weigh law enforcement concerns.
He said the Senate bill will be assigned to the House Agriculture Committee chaired by Rep. Tom McKee, D-Cynthiana.
McKee said his committee hasn’t received the bill though he expected it to be assigned to the committee Tuesday. He has scheduled a hearing on the bill for Feb. 27.
McKee said he hasn’t formed a settled opinion on the issue but seemed to have his own reservations.
“I’m going to listen to what we hear on Wednesday (Feb. 27),” McKee said.
He said some committee members have discussed a committee substitute to the Senate bill sponsored by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville.
“I think maybe there’s an education component that might be added to the bill,” McKee said in response to a reporter’s question about whether more study on the issue is needed.
“The thing I think we’ve got to remember is that it’s against federal law and what indications do we have that it will be changed this year?” asked McKee.
Comer said he planned to discuss the issue with McKee before the Feb. 27 committee meeting.
McKee said his committee is not planning to hear from members of the Kentucky congressional delegation at its hearing on the hemp bill.
Paul and Congressman John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, and Thomas Massie, R-Vanceburg, testified before Hornback’s committee. The measure also has the endorsement of McConnell.
RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.
By Ronnie Ellis
- State News
Prevailing wage bill dies in committee
The state House of Representatives will apparently not vote on a bill to remove the requirement that public school construction projects pay the area’s prevailing wage.
Bill would allow Paul to run for two offices
Most people know Kentucky Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul is considering running for president in 2016. But, if he does, he wants to be able to hedge his bets by running for re-election to his Senate seat at the same time.
4,000 march, remember in Frankfort
This time the welcome was warmer; still cold, but the sun shone; and 50 years of progress was marked.
Same-sex marriage decisions
Kentucky’s Democratic Attorney General won’t appeal a federal judge’s decision that Kentucky must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states — but Kentucky’s Democratic governor will.
Almost time for budget talk at session
More than halfway through the 2014 General Assembly, little has been seen of lawmakers’ plans for a new two-year state budget — but that’s about to change.
Same-sex marriage now legally recognized in Ky.
At least for the time being, same-sex couples with valid marriage licenses from other states must be legally recognized as married in Kentucky.
Debate ensues over juvenile court proceedings opening to public
Some juvenile court proceedings may soon be open to the public, but the measure still faces some stiff opposition in the state Senate from some.
Medical marijuana bill clears House panel
Stephanie Shown knows it was a small victory in a war she and others calling for legalization of medical marijuana are likely to lose this year.
2 honored for work with sexually abused
It’s Erica Brown Myers’ job to help those who have been victimized by sexual abuse. But helping others can take a toll on the helper as well as the victim.
Clinton visits fuel Dems in CNHI communities
It’s tough being a Democrat in heavily Republican Laurel County. Just ask 81-year-old Bernice Chesnut of London.
- More State News Headlines
- Prevailing wage bill dies in committee