Federal spending bill would add protection for industrial hemp pilot programs

Federal spending bill adds hemp protection

December 16, 2014 (Photo: Alton Strupp/The Courier-Journal) 731 CONNECT 88 TWEET LINKEDIN COMMENT EMAIL MORE, reporter, Gregory Hall

A federal spending bill that could be signed into law as soon as today by President Barack Obama contains language to prevent bureaucratic maneuvering that could hurt industrial hemp research efforts in states like Kentucky. Federal and Kentucky Department of Agriculture officials faced off last spring over shipments of hemp seed for research projects that were planned — and since have been conducted — in Kentucky as part of the Farm Bill that authorizes U.S. agriculture programs. While Kentucky officials have said they have a process in place for future years, Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and others hailed the language in the federal spending bill as insurance. The “amendment language confirms the legitimacy of the pilot programs,” Comer spokeswoman Kristen Branscum said in a statement. “It also safeguards our hemp pilot program from contradictory federal regulations that will impede the progress we’ve made in Kentucky” and allow Kentucky programs to continue “without fear of federal government overreach.” COURIER-JOURNAL University of Kentucky harvests its hemp crop The hemp language initially was inserted in the bill in the House through an amendment from Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky. 4, said Vote Hemp, an industrial hemp advocacy group that also credited Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., with helping secure the language in the Senate. “Last spring the DEA wasted precious taxpayer resources when it confiscated a shipment of hemp seeds intended for a pilot project in Kentucky,” Massie said in a Vote Hemp release. “By defunding further DEA interference, this amendment saves taxpayer dollars and gives states and research institutions the freedom to pursue hemp pilot programs.” COURIER-JOURNAL Video | UK harvests first hemp crop Kentucky is one of three states to plant industrial hemp research crops under the Farm Bill, while 15 other states are eligible to, Vote Hemp said. The 2013 General Assembly enacted a law sought by Comer and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., to make the state among the first to grow industrial hemp if federal law — which treated hemp like its more potent cousin, marijuana — ever allowed it. COURIER-JOURNAL Hemp homecoming: Rebirth sprouts in Kentucky This year’s Farm Bill let states that had set up hemp programs run pilot programs through their agriculture departments and universities. The Kentucky department is accepting applications for 2015 industrial hemp pilot projects through Jan. 1. The physical address of the location for the fields to be used must be submitted with the application. Selected applicants will be subject to background checks and site visits. The application is available on the department’s website at http://www.kyagr.com/hemp.

Reporter Gregory A. Hall can be reached at (502) 582-4087. Follow him on Twitter at @gregoryahall.

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