Agriculture

Two men associated with a cattle brokerage company have pleaded guilty to a federal charge in connection with a scheme that cost 172 farmers more than $840,000.

The Glasgow Daily Times reports that Thomas P. Gibson and Michael Steven McDonald each entered a plea in U.S. District Court in Kentucky to one count of mail fraud.

They previously pleaded guilty in Metcalfe Circuit Court to charges related to the scheme and agreed to fully repay farmers who sold cattle to Eastern Livestock.

The plea on the federal charge was entered last month. Brian Butler, Gibson's attorney, told the newspaper that his client never meant to hurt anyone, but has taken responsibility for what happened.

Comer: Industrial Hemp Bill to be Introduced in Frankfort Soon

Jan 3, 2013

Kentucky’s Agriculture Commissioner is continuing a push to legalize industrial hemp. James Comer says a hemp bill will be introduced next week by Shelby County Republican Senator Paul Hornback.

Comer has spent the past several months trying to convince law enforcement groups that industrial hemp won’t lead to an increase in marijuana growth, but he says the decision ultimately rests with the General Assembly.

“Whether they support it or not, the legislators are the lawmakers. They’re the ones that make the laws and the state police will abide by the law,” said Comer, who is a Monroe County farmer. “So I wish everybody was on board, but at the end of the day my job as Ag Commissioner is to help farmers and to create jobs in rural communities. And this bill will do that and hopefully we can get it passed.”

Comer says the bill will detail how the state agriculture department would regulate the growing of hemp. An economic impact study conducted by the University of Kentucky on the crop’s market potential is expected to be released in early February.

If the measure passes the state legislature, Comer says he will then focus on trying to get hemp reclassified at the federal level. Kentucky U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Bowling Green has appeared several times with Comer in recent months to support the legalization of industrial hemp. Sen. Paul says he'll champion federal efforts to reclassify hemp.

Before he joins the call for legalized industrial hemp, Gov. Steve Beshear wants law enforcement officials to resolve their concerns about the issue.

The issue: Some Kentucky officials believe legalized industrial hemp would be good for Kentucky's economy, but law enforcement officials are concerned that such a move would conflict with efforts to crack down on marijuana growers.

“I think we’re going to have to answer those questions before we can really move forward in the industrial hemp area,” Beshear said.

Kentucky is central in the movement to legalize hemp as an agricultural crop, largely thanks to the advocacy of Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul.

As Kentucky and federal lawmakers consider legalizing industrial hemp, the chair of the University of Kentucky's agriculture economics department notes that such an industry won't rise overnight.

It's a matter of economic viability. The main question being: With corn, soybeans and other crops selling at record high levels, what would entice farmers to switch to hemp instead?

Leigh Maynard, chair of the University of Kentucky’s ag economics department, said he expects farmers to be hesitant to begin growing industrial hemp. Maynard said  farmers will likely balk at the idea of foregoing record high prices in other markets just to grow hemp.

The second meeting of the state’s Industrial Hemp Commission will include picking out some details of panel’s efforts. The commission, chaired by Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, will dive Friday morning into specifics of a new legislative proposal.

They include the bill’s language and which legislators will sponsor it during the 2013 session.

Comer says a state university will be selected to conduct a new economic study of legalizing industrial hemp in Kentucky.

Kevin Willis

Despite experiencing one of the worse droughts in U.S. history, agriculture economists in Kentucky are projecting record cash receipts for the state’s farmers.

During their annual outlook during the Kentucky Farm Bureau conference, economists from the University of Kentucky say they think Kentucky will break the $5-billion barrier in revenues this year.

Lead economist Will Snell says high prices for many crops -- along will increased exports and insurance payouts  -- helped offset the drought for many agricultural industries in Kentucky.

Kentucky Sheriffs' Association Executive Director Jerry Wagner says his group hasn't decided on supporting or opposing legalizing industrial hemp. Wagner and other members of the KSA board met with Agriculture Commissioner James Comer Thursday in Frankfort for more information on the subject.

Republican advocates of industrial hemp in Kentucky are getting some across the aisle help. Rep. John Yarmuth, a Louisville Democrat, supports efforts to legalize the plant in Kentucky, his spokesman said. U.S. Senator Rand Paul and Agriculture Commissioner James Comer are the two leading advocates for the move.

Massie Signs On as Co-Sponsor of Hemp Legislation

Nov 27, 2012

U.S. Rep.-elect Thomas Massie is co-sponsoring legislation that would require the federal government to honor state laws allowing production of industrial hemp. The proposed Industrial Hemp Farming Act would exclude industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana. A similar bill is being co-sponsored in the U.S. Senate by Kentucky Republican Rand Paul.

Farmers growing burley tobacco in Kentucky and Tennessee are receiving some of the best crop prices they've seen since 2004. That's the last year the crop was sold under production and price controls established by the federal government.

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