Monday, January 28, 2013
Kentucky Industrial Hemp commission votes to support SB 50; Comer fires on opposition
The Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission (KIHC) voted today to support Senate Bill 50, Sen. Paul Hornback’s legislation that establishes a framework if and when the federal government acts to re-introduce industrial hemp into Kentucky’s agri-economy. This marked Hornback’s first meeting as a member of the commission, and he was met with enthusiastic applause.
“Sen. Hornback has shown great courage,” Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said. “He is standing up for our farmers and all Kentuckians who want to see opportunities for our farm communities and jobs for our citizens.”
Several guests spoke in favor of SB 50, including Mike Lewis, a veteran and a small-scale farmer from Berea who heads the Growing Warriors program for military veterans interested in agriculture. Lewis, whose brother was shot in the head while in active military service, spoke passionately about the need to put military veterans back to work when they return from war.
“All we are asking for is the freedom to make a living and support our families,” Lewis said. “Many veterans are interested in small-scale farming, and the possibilities for industrial hemp give us some hope for good jobs — the kind of jobs our veterans deserve.”
The group also commissioned an economic impact study to be performed by the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture with the hopes that such a study could have an impact on the discussion at the federal level to legalize industrial hemp. Dan Caudill of Caudill Seed, a century-old agri-business based out of Louisville that employs more than 100 Kentuckians, spoke to the commission about his support for the industrial hemp initiative.
“I think this crop could have a great impact on my company and many other agri-businesses around the state, and we are fully supportive of SB 50,” Caudill said.
After the meeting, Comer addressed reports that certain members of law enforcement and Operation Unite had issued a press release opposing SB 50. Comer said he felt the release exemplified a government out of control and that these individuals went too far in taking a position on the popularity of the issue and economic viability of the crop. Comer visited all 120 Kentucky counties last year and said the issue has enormous support from Paducah to Pikeville.
“Everyone knows that industrial hemp is marijuana’s worst nightmare because it kills the toxicity in the marijuana plant,” Comer said. “So it is very troubling to me when I hear reports that marijuana growers and certain members of law enforcement are on the same side. The arguments from our opposition are shallow, misleading and downright wrong. I believe the best way to get people off drugs is to put them back to work.”
The law enforcement community has several statutory seats on the commission, but no members of law enforcement were present for today’s KIHC meeting.
From Kentucky Department of Agriculture