On Monday, April 8th, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles hosted a hemp forum at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville. Senator McConnell and Commissioner Quarles invited U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Greg Ibach and Risk Management Agency (RMA) Administrator Martin Barbre to update and hear from Kentucky hemp farmers, processors and manufacturers regarding the implementation of the 2018 Farm Bill provisions that legalized the production of hemp. U.S. Undersecretary of Agriculture Greg Ibach said Kentucky blazed a trail with its early entry into the hemp industry.
"Kentucky is a leader that we are looking to at USDA to be able to help guide us," Ibach said.
In 2014, in collaboration with agriculture leaders in Kentucky and throughout the nation, Senator McConnell secured language in that year’s Farm Bill to authorize hemp research pilot programs, which is what Kentucky continues to operate under today. He also used his position as a senior member of the Appropriations Committee to insert provisions in yearly appropriations bills to ensure that hemp produced from the pilot programs could be transported, processed and marketed without interference from the federal government. Under the guidance of Commissioner Quarles and his predecessor, now-U.S. Representative James Comer (R-KY), these programs have allowed Kentucky farmers to both research the plant and to demonstrate its potential as a viable cash crop.
“I’d like to thank Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Commissioner Quarles for hosting this session. Because of the leadership of Leader McConnell, the 2018 Farm Bill included new language that instructed USDA to issue regulations to implement a nationwide program for the commercial production of industrial hemp in the United States," said USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, who participated via video.
"The Commonwealth of Kentucky, as you know, has been a leader on this crop since the inception of the state’s pilot program. Leader McConnell and Commissioner Quarles understand the importance of this growing crop in our broader farm economy and I’ve been clear about the need to establish the regulatory framework for future certainty and opportunity in the production of industrial hemp. Listening sessions like this are very helpful in assisting our staff to gain a better understanding of your needs as we develop rules in accordance with the mandates in the 2018 Farm Bill," Perdue said.
In December, President Trump signed into law the 2018 Farm Bill, which included Senator McConnell’s initiative to legalize hemp as an agricultural commodity by removing it from the federal list of controlled substances. Last week, Senator McConnell sent letters to several federal financial regulators encouraging them to help hemp farmers and producers explore the full economic opportunity of hemp.
“Hemp has a remarkable history in the Bluegrass State. From Henry Clay’s fields at the Ashland Estate to helping the Greatest Generation in the Second World War, Kentucky has been at the forefront of hemp production in this country,” Senator McConnell said. “I’d like to thank Undersecretary Ibach and Administrator Barbre for coming to Kentucky to hear directly from farmers and producers as the USDA works to implement the hemp program I authored and secured in the 2018 Farm Bill.”
The USDA is currently undergoing a listening phase to help better understand the current state of the hemp industry, and to be sure that guidelines and regulations for production allow the industry to flourish with the least possible risk and most opportunity. On Wednesday, March 13 the USDA hosted a hemp listening session to receive feedback from stakeholders regarding regulation of hemp under the 2018 Farm Bill, and after traveling to Kentucky will visit other states to learn about the industry.
“What an honor it is for Kentucky to host U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary Greg Ibach and Risk Management Agency Administrator Martin Barbre for a forum with Kentucky’s hemp community,” Commissioner Quarles said. “The fact that USDA selected Kentucky as its first stop to learn about hemp underscores that the Commonwealth is a national leader for this industry. I am incredibly grateful to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for championing the legalization of hemp nationwide in 2018 and for his willingness to keep up the fight for our hemp community as we transition to the widespread commercialization of hemp. I will continue to work with him and our partners at USDA to secure a national regulatory framework that will give all levels of the hemp supply chain the certainty they need to succeed and prosper.”
Click here to watch a live recording of the opening introduction and remarks from:
-Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles
-USDA Under-Secretary Greg Ibach
-Kentucky Department of Agriculture, General Counsel Joe Bilby and Hemp Program Manager Doris Hamilton
-Invited Speakers: Mark Haney, Kentucky Farm Bureau
Click here to watch a live recording of remarks from:
-Invited Speakers: Dean Nancy Cox and Tom Keene, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment; and Trey Riddle, Hemp Processor with Sunstrand
Additional invited speakers on agenda not recorded:
Brennan Gilkison, Hemp Grower; Katie Moyer, Hemp Processor/Kentucky Agricultural Development Board Member; Commissioner Ryan Sanders, Kentucky State Police; Jonathan Miller, attorney
Pictured left to right: Katie Moyer, Kentucky Hemp Works; Kirstin Bohnert, Kentucky Hempsters; Re Kramper, Kentucky Hemp Works; Alyssa Erickson, Kentucky Hempsters
We are proud to have been invited to the public forum to represent the Kentucky hemp industry, and will be submitting our own comments on federal hemp guidelines via letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, USDA Under Secretary Greg Ibach, and USDA Rick Management Agency Administrator Martin Barbre. We appreciate Senator McConnell, Commissioner Ryan Quarles and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, along with the USDA for leading the way for the future of the American hemp industry. Kentucky has been, and will remain, a leader in hemp production and we are dedicated to working with the USDA and other states to help bring this crop back to U.S. farms.