Kentucky’s Industrial Hemp Commission is serving notice to the federal government that it plans to move forward with creating regulations for hemp production in the commonwealth.

A news release from the state agriculture department says staff members have been instructed to begin the process of writing rules for the development of the long-banned crop. The state’s industrial hemp commission is calling for Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and U.S. Senator Rand Paul to write a letter to the U.S. Justice Department to “make Kentucky’s intentions known.”

Recent changes to state law have opened the door to future hemp production in Kentucky, although growing the crop is still technically illegal under federal rules.

But Commissioner Comer is pointing to recent statements by a Justice Department official who said the federal government has no intentions of prosecuting hemp farmers.

" entity will seek to throw up a government obstacle to moving forward with another opportunity for Kentucky farmers and for manufacturing jobs."

Dept. of Agriculture

A top state official is hoping twenty-first century technology will help Kentucky school children learn about the importance of agriculture. The Mobile Science Activity Centers” will begin touring the state this fall.

The 44-foot trailers are decked out with 11 iPads a 70-inch LED monitor and a touch screen desktop computer – all paid for by a public-private partnership between the Agriculture Department and over a dozen industry groups.  

"Most school children are two, three, or more generations removed from the farm," said Agriculture Commissioner James Comer. "The Mobile Science Activity Centers enable kids to learn about agriculture's importance in our everyday lives." 

The schedule for mobile units is jam-packed for the next three school years.

Lisa Autry

Bowling Green area farmers set up shop outside the Barren River District Health Department Wednesday, in an effort to make nutritional food easily accessible to the community.

Farmers selling vegetables, eggs, meats, and cheeses set up their tents on the front lawn of the health department, and--within a few minutes--business was booming.

A group of local farmers is working to make their products accessible in low-income areas. The farmers used the health department Wednesday as a testing site to see how many consumers would be willing to turn out.

The farmers have purchased a bus with a USDA grant. The bus is being retrofitted to act as a traveling community farmers market. Starting in April, the bus will stop at various Bowling Green locations where access to fresh foods is limited.

The market will also accept forms of government assistance, and will become Kentucky's first farmers market on wheels.

Fortunately for those of us who are suckers for novelty, every year fruits and vegetables seem to come in more bewitching colors, shapes and flavors. Lately, we've been tickled by the cotton candy grape and the vibrant orange Turkish eggplant.

Defense attorneys for a former Kentucky agriculture commissioner haven’t filed any motions ahead of an October federal trial.

Richie Farmer is facing five counts related to his time in office from 2004 to 2011. A federal judge set an August 2 deadline for Farmer’s lawyer to file defense motions, but the Courier-Journal reports no such motions were submitted. That’s despite the judge’s decision to extend the filing deadline in response to Farmer’s attorney’s claims that he needed extra time to mile motions.

Farmer’s attorney is Guthrie True, who represented then-Barren County Sheriff Chris Eaton in his recent federal trial in Bowling Green.

Farmer was indicted in April on four counts involving alleged theft of federal funds and one count of soliciting a bribe while agriculture commissioner. Farmer has pleaded not guilty to all counts. The government wants him to repay $450,000--the amount they say he misused while in office.

Murray State Eyeing Hemp Research

Aug 12, 2013

Officials with Murray State University are eyeing hemp research should the crop be made legal in a federal farm bill.

The dean of the university's agriculture school, Tony Brannon, says he'd be interested in research opportunities involving hemp and focusing on how effective the crop would be.

Congress is weighing a provision to allow research into hemp as part of the 2013 farm bill. Kentucky has been pushing for the federal government to either allow it to be grown for commercial use or research.

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer says along with Murray State, the Toyota plant in Georgetown has already shown interest in using industrial hemp for manufacturing parts for the automobiles it produces.

Kentucky Dept. of Agriculture

A new partnership in Kentucky is combining the efforts of state dairy farmers and the world's largest retailer.

Agriculture Commissioner James Comer announced Monday that Walmart stores in central and south-central Kentucky will soon begin stocking a line of milk products that is sourced and processed entirely at commonwealth dairy farms.

Calling it one of the most significant developments in the history of the Kentucky Proud marketing program. Comer unveiled the “Udderly Kentucky” partnership, which will stock Walmart stores in the Bluegrass State with milk from 105 Kentucky dairy farms.

The program will return a 7-cent-per-gallon premium to each participating supplier. According to Comer, the average participating Kentucky dairy operation will generate $19,000 annually from the agreement.

Comer told WKU Public Radio he's been working on the partnership with Walmart since he took office in 2012. And he says he’s aware that many in the local-food movement eye Walmart with a great deal of suspicion and even disdain, given controversy surrounding the company’s business and employment practices.

Comer says he brought the issue up with the retailer when negotiating the deal.

James Comer Not Ruling Out Run for Governor in 2015

Jun 24, 2013
Kentucky Dept. of Agriculture

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer isn't ruling out a run for governor in 2015, but he says he's not focused on the race yet.

Comer told WBKO-TV in Bowling Green that the race is "something we're looking at," but he's concentrating on being the agriculture commissioner.

Comer, the lone Republican in a state cabinet position, said it is a year too early for any candidate to announce plans for the gubernatorial race.

Comer has been pushing to legalize industrial hemp in Kentucky. State lawmakers have passed a measure allowing the growth of the plant should the federal government lift restrictions on it.

Governor Steve Beshear sent a letter to President Obama this week asking for help in identifying economic opportunities for industrial hemp production.

In the letter, Beshear asked the U.S. Attorney General, Agriculture Secretary, D.E.A., and others to look for ways hemp could eventually be grown and marketed that don’t negatively impact Kentucky’s drug eradication efforts.

In April, Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer led a bipartisan delegation to Washington to lobby lawmakers and White House officials to legalize industrial hemp. Kentucky lawmakers this year passed a bill that would set up the regulatory framework for growing and marketing hemp if the crop is removed from the federal government’s list of banned substances.

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer doesn't expect the indictment of his predecessor, Richie Farmer, to damage the department. Comer says he feels sorry for Farmer's family because of the indictment, but it won't be a distraction for the department.

Comer and his staff have cooperated with multiple investigations into Farmer, and his goal is to distance the office from the officeholder.

"I hope the confidence has been restored. I work hard every day, I go to events every day to promote agriculture. We brought in all new management, we're efficient, we're transparent," said Comer, a Monroe County native.

Farmer has been indicted on five counts related to allegations he misused his office to obtain gifts and misappropriated state funds during his two terms as commissioner. He could face up to ten years in prison and a quarter million dollar fine.