Senate passes bill to reauthorize farm programs and food aid for the next five years

KY hemp future

KENTUCKY (WFIE) - The Senate has voted and passed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (Farm Bill).

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced Tuesday that language to legalize industrial hemp was officially included in the bill.

The measure legalizes hemp as an agricultural commodity by removing it from the federal list of controlled substances. It also gives states the opportunity to become the primary regulators of hemp production, allows hemp researchers to apply for competitive federal grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and makes hemp eligible for crop insurance.

This measure builds upon the hemp pilot programs, which where secured in the 2014 Farm Bill. In 2017, more than 3,200 acres of hemp were being grown across Kentucky.

“Last year alone, Kentucky hemp recorded more than $16 million in product sales through the state pilot program I previously secured, demonstrating that hemp holds great potential for the future of Kentucky agriculture,” said Senator McConnell. “My Hemp Farming Act as included in the Farm Bill will not only legalize domestic hemp, but it will also allow state departments of agriculture to be responsible for its oversight. In Kentucky, that means that Commissioner Ryan Quarles, another champion of hemp, will be able to help farmers thrive. When the Senate votes on this legislation in the coming days, we will also be voting to give farmers throughout the country the chance to tap into hemp’s potential and take part in its future.”

“When I was elected Commissioner of Agriculture, I promised to take Kentucky’s hemp program to the next level and establish our state as the epicenter of the industry in the United States,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles. “This Farm Bill helps achieve that goal, and demonstrates that hemp is no longer a novelty but a serious crop that will unleash economic opportunity for our farmers. We would not be here today without the unwavering support of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and our congressional delegation.”

14 News spoke to a Daviess County Extension Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources.

“That’s not insignificant, especially for what has been a giant experiment at this point, but what he didn’t share was the cost to acquire that $16 million dollars was," Clint Hardy explained.

Despite the pilot project, some would argue there’s a great deal of information to learn.

"We’re told the upfront cost for the seed or the transplants is extremely expensive; we don’t what level of labor will be involved yet,” Hardy added.

The Farm Bill Conference Report is expected to be approved by the House of Representatives in the coming days; it will then be sent to President Donald Trump for his signature.

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