Frankfort, Ky. – For the first time in a decade and with a packed house on hand, the Kentucky Hemp Commission convened at Agriculture Commissioner James Comer’s office Nov. 14.
The commission was originally created by statute in 2001 to explore the possibilities of raising a legal hemp crop in Kentucky and the economical impact it would have.
But numerous attempts by various state lawmakers over the last ten years have proven futile in getting any kind of bill passed. However, with the legalization of industrial hemp high on Comer’s list of legislative initiatives for the 2013 General Assembly, the idea of growing hemp has grown new legs.
Comer opened the meeting by saying what a historic day it was in Kentucky. “This commission is going to meet and do what we’re required by statute to do,” he said. “This is an exciting issue in agriculture and hopefully will impact future farmers for years and years. I sincerely believe industrial hemp can be a viable option for our farmers for many generations to come and I also believe we can create badly needed jobs in the manufacturing sector with this crop. ”
Comer was joined by U.S. Senator Rand Paul at this year’s state fair to announce their support of legislation that would allow hemp to once again be raised in the state. Paul is a co-sponsor of federal legislation to allow hemp to be grown in the U.S.
While the junior Kentucky senator did not appear at this meeting he did send a representative, Mica Sims who announced a donation of $50,000 from Paul’s political action committee to the operation of the commission.
Paul said in a statement that Kentucky needs jobs and industrial hemp could create thousands of production and manufacturing jobs and the state could be the first in line for them.
Also present at the meeting was David Bronner, CEO of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, a $50 million a year company that makes natural soap products and utilizes imported hemp seed oil. Bronner also donated $50,000 to the commission.
“We really see industrial hemp as a sustainable, ecological crop. We’re big advocates for organic farming and hemp doesn’t need a lot of pesticides or herbicides,” he said. “There has been a global renaissance over the last 10 years and the United States is the largest consumer market for hemp seed and fiber products yet American farmers are being systematically denied. In the middle of the greatest recession, we’re continuing to hand the world’s largest market to Canadian farmers and Chinese farmers and it’s ridiculous.”
State Rep. Tom McKee, who chairs the House Agriculture Committee and is a farmer from Harrison County is serving on the commission. He said even with this new effort there will still be many questions about raising hemp but his committee is open to looking at new crops and new profit potentials for state farmers. He also said that addressing the concerns about the crop with law enforcement officials would be very important.