WKU Public Radio's interview with Agriculture Commissioner James Comer
Kentucky’s agriculture commissioner says Republicans need to focus on the economy in order to win statewide office, as opposed to stressing social issues.
In an interview at WKU Public Radio Wednesday, James Comer said the GOP has alienated a lot of key voting groups by making hot-button social topics the cornerstone of their campaigns.
“I’m proud to be a social conservative, but I’m not going to run any campaign in the future—regardless of what I run for—specifically on social issues. That has driven off young voters, and that has driven off female voters.”
Comer’s comments echo much of what Kentucky U.S. Senator Rand Paul has said recently about the future of the GOP, and the party’s need to become more attractive to groups of voters that will determine Republicans’ future electoral prospects.
Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer is cheering House passage of legislation to allow university research on industrial hemp. The measure was an amendment to the farm bill that passed in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday.
“Without a doubt, this was an historic day for industrial hemp in America,” Comer said. “There’s a long way to go in the legislative process. And I won’t be satisfied until Kentucky farmers can legally grow industrial hemp again. But I am pleased that we have made it this far.”
The amendment would allow colleges and universities to grow hemp for research purposes in states where hemp production is allowed by state law.
U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie of Vanceburg was one of three co-sponsors of the amendment and has filed a bill that would remove hemp from the federal definition of marijuana. U.S. Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, and Reps. Andy Barr, Brett Guthrie, and Ed Whitfield also have also publicly supported restoring legal hemp production to Kentucky.
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.
For industrial hemp supporters, Thursday’s farm bill vote in the U.S. House is a case of good news and bad news.
The good news: a bi-partisan amendment passed a floor vote and was added to the $940 billion farm bill package.
The bad news: that farm bill was ultimately voted down, with 195 House members voting in favor, and 234 voting against.
The hemp amendment was co-sponsored by Kentucky’s Fourth District Representative Thomas Massie, and would allow colleges and universities to grow and cultivate hemp for academic and agricultural research purposes. It would apply to states where industrial hemp growth has been legalized.
Nineteen states have passed pro-hemp legislation, while nine others—including Kentucky—have removed certain barriers to the crop’s production.
Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner and Monroe County native James Comer recently led a delegation to Washington D.C. to lobby lawmakers and White House officials on behalf of hemp legalization.
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’s two U.S. Senators are upset that an industrial hemp measure will not be a part of a farm bill taken up next week. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul both say they will vote against the measure, calling it “regrettable” that different amendments including the Senator’s hemp addition won’t be considered.
The amendment supported by the Kentuckians would have exempted hemp with 0.3 percent less of THC from the list of banned drugs prohibited by the federal government. THC is the psychoactive compound present in marijuana that creates a high when the drug is smoked.
In a joint statement, Senators McConnell and Paul said they weren’t giving up on getting industrial hemp legalized, and would look at other ways to get federal law changed.
The actions follow this year’s vote by Kentucky lawmakers to create a regulatory framework for hemp production if the federal government legalizes the crop.
Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer has made hemp legalization his number one legislative priority, and led a bi-partisan group to Washington D.C. in May to lobby lawmakers, White House officials, and others on the issue.
Federal subsidies to tobacco farmers in Kentucky and elsewhere will continue next year, even though a majority of U.S. Senators believe they should not. The Senate voted Thursday 52-44 to cut off the payments, but the measure required 60 votes for passage.
California Senator. Diane Feinstein led the effort to end taxpayer subsidies, suggesting that tobacco farmers, particularly in Kentucky, have done quite well over the past decade.
"A 2012 University of Illinois study found that productivity on Kentucky tobacco farms increased by 44% in the last ten years," asserted Feinstein. "At the same time, tobacco farmers are seeing some of their best pay days since the 2004 buyout began."
Feinstein argued the payments need to stop because tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in the nation. Other critics claim the payments are too generous.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky called the measure’s defeat a big victory for tobacco growers. The commonwealth is the nation’s top burley tobacco producer.
Kevin's interview with Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner and Monroe County native James Comer
Kentucky's agriculture commissioner says last week's setback shouldn't cause hemp supporters to give up hopes of getting the crop legalized. James Comer told WKU Public Radio he's not surprised language legalizing industrial hemp failed to get added to the first drafts of farm bills in the U.S. House and Senate.
Last week, a group of Kentucky U.S. Senators and House members tried--and failed--to get that language included in the legislation.
Comer says the federal farm bill has a long way to go before it gets passed, and a lot of things will be added and taken out in the next few months.
"And I learned during this last session in Kentucky, when I read in the papers that (House Speaker) Greg Stumbo would say my bill was dead, that it's not over until the very last day, so we're still holding out hope on it," said Comer, a farmer from Monroe County.
Industrial hemp legalization has failed to make it into draft copies of farm bills in the U.S. House and Senate.
The hemp issue enjoys the support of seven of the eight members of Kentucky’s federal delegation, and Senator Mitch McConnell had explored the possibility of inserting a hemp legalization provision in the Senate farm measure.
However, that provision didn’t have wide enough backing among Senators to make the farm bill draft.
A McConnell spokesman told the Courier-Journal that McConnell and Senator Rand Paul “continue to look at several options to move the hemp legislation through the Senate.” The spokesman said inclusion in the farm bill isn’t the only option for changing federal laws regarding industrial hemp.
Kentucky lawmakers this year passed a bill allowing farmers in the state to grow hemp if the federal government legalized the crop.
WKU Public Radio has contacted the office of Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer for any response to hemp's lack of inclusion in the draft farm bills. We will bring you any reaction when we receive it.
A trio of Kentuckians who favor the legalization of hemp says a trip to Washington D.C. to meet with lawmakers and executive branch officials was beneficial.
Former state treasurer Jonathan Miller, Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and State Senator Paul Hornback spent three days in D.C. pushing for either the national legalization of industrial hemp, or a waiver to grow it in the commonwealth.
Earlier this year, state lawmakers approved a bill that sets up the framework to grow hemp in Kentucky if it's legalized on the federal level. The group met with most of Kentucky's federal delegation as well as officials from the Energy and Agriculture departments. Miller says the overall response to their message was positive, and even House Speaker John Boehner indicated he would like to see hemp legalized.
"He ultimately concluded that he was very favorable and that he would use his influence and talk with Senator McConnell to develop a strategy to seek its passage," Miller says.