Hemp farmers and processors in Murray presented progress and problems in growing the crop to U.S. Senator Rand Paul on Thursday. Paul is in the region as part of a tour discussing healthcare options and made a stop in Murray to talk hemp ahead of visits to other communities. Afterwords, he also commented on North Korea and health care reform options.
Joseph Kelly operates West Kentucky Hemp LLC. and works with Kentucky 21st Century Agri. He led much of the presentation, briefing Paul on some of their processes and procedures, ambitions and challenges. Kelly and others involved in hemp described its various uses: leaves (producing CBD), floor material (buds) for extracting oil, seeds (as grain and pressed for oil) and other uses involving the fiber.
Farmers say regulations are the 'biggest problem' and much of that has to do with its listing as a federally-controlled substance.
Paul said regulations and 'big government' need to 'get out of the way' of the country's burgeoning hemp industry. He expressed dismay when farmers told him hemp couldn't be used as livestock feed.
"I don't like the idea that we would have to ask somebody in Washington for permission to feed the root of the plant to a chicken or a cow. I think things that God gave us and that grow on Earth really the government shouldn't be preventing you from feeding them to your livestock," Paul said.
Farmers handed Paul a bag of edible hemp seeds for humans imported from Canada and suggested with fewer regulations similar products could be produced in Kentucky. Paul says hemp restrictions make the U.S. less competitive and will seek to address issues in the next farm bill.
Following-up, Joseph Kelly said he is glad to hear Paul involved in hemp and willing to take a look at legislation. He felt Paul's biggest takeaway was the livestock issue, which he said is personally important for his farm and company.
Other topics discussed include trials for herbicides and banking and insurance issues.
Kelly said a processing facility is under construction nearby. He's also looking to expand his hemp crop from 700 acres to 940 acres. Once the processor is up an running, he said, he'll be looking to hire. Describing both the growing acreage and new processing, Kelly emphasized the possibility for job growth in the commonwealth as this could naturally magnify elsewhere. Pointing to hemp's versatility as a crop, Paul also suggested that hemp could be viable in areas of Kentucky that might not be as agriculturally abundant.
"I think hemp has been a step towards a brand new product that has nothing to do with marijuana and has a lot of value as a new crop for us," Paul said.
Senator Paul said both the United States and North Korea should ‘ratchet down the rhetoric’ and find a peaceful solution.
Paul is referring to rhetoric "in general" and not specifically President Donald Trump’s recent “fire and fury” comments.
Paul said politicians should assure the North Korean regime that there is no desire to occupy or invade their country. He says when people are fearful of invasion there is a danger of an accident occurring.
“If I could do anything I would say let’s try to ratchet down the rhetoric. Let’s try to ratchet down the fear and the bellicosity on both sides. And see if we can get to a peaceful solution," he said.
He said North Korea should be reminded that the U.S. is allied with South Korea and should they unleash an attack “it would be the last thing they ever do.” He also said the U.S. isn’t interested in a preemptive attack and that war should be a last resort.
Senator Paul said President Donald Trump could act unilaterally on changes to the health care system. Paul is touring Kentucky discussing efforts to expand group insurance options across state lines. He said he recently spoke with President Trump to consider taking action without new legislation.
“We talked about letting people join groups like co-ops or association health plans and I believe that he can act unilaterally through presidential authority to expand the definition," Paul said.
As an example, he said, the National Restaurant Association - of more than 40,000 members - could be ‘legalized’ to form a group to buy insurance as one body and negotiate a discount in prices. Paul says he believes Trump is “very interested” in this option.
He said he is disappointed that politicians who promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act “went back on their promise” but is holding out hope for other options. Three Republicans broke ranks and voted against a proposed ‘Skinny Repeal’ of the ACA last month.
A bill expanding association health plans passed the House and is now in the Senate.