McConnell and Quarles Lead USDA Secretary On Kentucky Hemp Tour

This week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) joined Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles in hosting a tour of Kentucky's hemp industry for USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue. The day was focused around hemp, with a touch of bourbon.

In the morning, Senator McConnell and Commissioner Quarles hosted a private roundtable with Secretary Perdue at Commonwealth Extracts in Louisville. Farmers and processors were invited to share thoughts and insight about the USDA hemp guidelines, which are set to be in place by 2020. Secretary Perdue also had the opportunity to tour the large-scale hemp extraction facility and see examples of products that are being grown and processed as part of the hemp program.

"Kentucky is the epicenter for the hemp industry. USDA is working with Senator McConnell and Commissioner Quarles, and Kentucky farmers as we aim to have the regs out for the 2020 growing season," Secretary Perdue tweeted.

Next stop was the new Bulleit Distillery Visitors Center in Shelbyville for a meeting with Kentucky Farm Bureau members and the Shelby County Chamber of Commerce, where topics ranged from hemp to trade.

The tour continued in Lexington, where a second private roundtable was held at the University of Kentucky Spindletop Hall. Again, farmers and processors discussed their thoughts on USDA hemp guidelines and how to regulate, without over-regulating. Issues like crop insurance, banking, seed certification, FDA regulation and distinguishing between American grown and imported hemp were hot topics.

Secretary Sonny Perdue tweeted, "The University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food & Environment is the brain trust of the hemp industry. Hemp is an interesting burgeoning industry with a lot of opportunities and a lot of challenges -- that's why it's important to get out and listen to the folks of the Kentucky Ag (Department). [I] appreciate Dean Cox [for] hosting this important hemp roundtable."

The roundtable was followed by a press conference at the UK Spindletop Farm hemp research plots. Local media and roundtable guests joined as Commissioner Quarles, Senator McConnell, and Secretary Perdue discussed the intent of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, Congress, and the USDA to work collaboratively on the hemp guidelines, and addressing issues with financial services and FDA.

It was an honor to be invited to the private hemp roundtable in Lexington to represent the Kentucky hemp industry and share our thoughts on USDA hemp guidelines. We were specifically interested in discussing the possibility of allocating funds toward education materials and marketing resources for farmers. As Kentucky Hempsters, we are proud to represent the great hemp state and are committed to working with our Congressional and state leadership to pave the best possible path for the future of hemp.

- Kentucky Hempsters

Kentucky Hempsters co-founders Kirstin Bohnert (left) and Alyssa Erickson (right) with Senator McConnell (R-KY) at the Hemp Roundtable with USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue on July 2, 2019 in Lexington, Kentucky.

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