Mitch McConnell, Courier-Journal
The Senate has opened a door to new opportunities for Kentucky agriculture. After extensive collaboration with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, we passed one of my top Kentucky priorities for the year — a Farm Bill containing my legislation to legalize the production of industrial hemp. When President Trump signs the bill into law, Kentucky‘s farmers can continue to lead the nation in the growing, processing and manufacturing of industrial hemp.
You may be familiar with hemp’s storied history in Kentucky — even Henry Clay is said to have grown it in the fields of his Lexington estate, Ashland. During World War II, the federal government went as far as to produce a promotional video encouraging the growth of Kentucky hemp, which was used to make the necessary supplies to help win the war. The crop, however, was later prohibited because of its dubious connection with an illicit cousin, marijuana.
In early 2013, Kentucky farmers and then-Agriculture Commissioner Jamie Comer brought to my attention just how wrongheaded the federal ban on hemp was. The demand for tobacco had fallen from its all-time high, the tobacco buyout I secured years earlier was winding down and Kentucky farmers needed a new cash crop. While customers could already find hemp products on store shelves, the hemp used had to be imported from other countries.
Kentucky has a proven track record for favorable growing conditions for hemp, and there was no legitimate reason why our farmers shouldn’t be allowed to grow the crop and capitalize on this growing market. That’s why I secured an initiative in the 2014 Farm Bill paving the way for state hemp pilot programs that would give farmers in Kentucky the opportunity to grow and research hemp and demonstrate its potential.