Commissioner James Comer says many of the reforms he brought to the Kentucky Agriculture Department are needed across state government. The gubernatorial candidate was in Bowling Green Friday speaking to the group Leadership Kentucky.
Since taking the reins in 2012, Comer talked about how the Agriculture Department has become more accountable, transparent, and efficient which he said will be talking points on the campaign trail.
"The next governor will have to make some tough decisions. The next governor will have to pay for this Medicaid expansion and find a way to infuse money into this pension system that threatens to bankrupt the state," explained Comer. "We're going to go back to the Department of Agriculture on how we've saved money and shrunk the size of our government agency while doing more for the taxpayers because that's what we're going to have to do in all of state government in the future."
After the speech, Comer declined to comment on rumblings that he has picked State Senator Chris McDaniel as his running mate.
"I'll say this about State Senator Chris McDaniel. I'm a big fan of his. He's had huge success in the private sector with a business he started," added Comer. "In my opinion, he's proven himself to be one of the smartest guys in Frankfort. He's passionate about finding waste, fraud, and abuse in state government and I think that's something the next administration is going to have to take seriously."
Comer will officially launch his gubernatorial bid and announce his running mate September 9 in his hometown of Tompkinsville.
Louisville businessman Hal Heiner is also seeking the Republican nomination for governor. Attorney General Jack Conway is the only announced Democratic candidate in the 2015 race.
Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer officially announced his bid for governor at the 134th annual Fancy Farm political picnic, becoming the third candidate to do so in the 2015 race and setting the stage for a Republican primary battle against a former Louisville Metro councilman in the process.
"It's been my dream come true to be your commissioner of agriculture. And I view the people of Western Kentucky as our family. So T.J. and I have chosen this time, and this place, to say to all of you, I will be a candidate for governor in 2015," Comer said.
The anticipated announcement now pits Comer, a Republican who succeeded Richie Farmer in 2012, against Hal Heiner, a Republican who narrowly lost to Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer in a 2010 election.
Comer says he’s yet to select a running mate, but will do so once he officially files his candidacy papers on Sept. 9.
A new poll suggests the race to decide Kentucky’s next governor, it’s still very much up for grabs.
Data from a recent Bluegrass poll shows a plurality of Kentucky voters have either “no opinion” or are neutral toward three gubernatorial candidates, including Attorney General Jack Conway; former Louisville Metro Councilman Hal Heiner; and Agriculture Secretary James Comer, whom is expected to announce his candidacy this weekend at the Fancy Farm political picnic in West Kentucky.
Notably, the poll suggests Conway is trailing Heiner and Comer among African Americans, with a negative favorability rating of eight points.
The poll surveyed 714 registered voters, and reported a margin of error just under 4 percent.
This Saturday the 134th annual Fancy Farm political picnic will feature thousands of pounds of barbecue, and even spicier political rhetoric. In addition, the event’s chairman anticipates this year’s political gathering to be the largest ever.
Mark Wilson and his wife, Lori, have directed the political happenings at the Fancy Farm picnic for the past eight years. Mark anticipates this year’s crowd will be the largest since 1992, when Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate Al Gore spoke at the event.
“It’s a ballpark, 15 to 20,000. And that’s what we anticipate this year, the same type of crowd.
A lifelong congregant of the stump speech mecca’s St. Jerome Catholic parish, where the event is held alongside raffles and bingo, Wilson says local and state officeholders, as well as both of Kentucky’s U.S. Senators, will be present at Fancy Farm.
He says he anticipates Kentucky Agricultural Commissioner James Comer to keep with a tried and true Fancy Farm tradition and announce his rumored gubernatorial candidacy.
“There’s speculation that he’s going to announce his intentions to run for governor on the Republican side of the aisle, and we think there’s a very good possibility he will make that announcement on our political platform on Saturday.”
Wilson says the event will also feature its other signature offering: Several thousand pounds of barbeque mutton, chicken, and pork to aid the digestion of what could be the biggest Fancy Farm ever.
Kentucky Agriculture Department officials say they're seeing progress toward ending a stalemate with the federal government over a shipment of hemp seeds meant for test projects.
Attorneys discussed the case Friday during a conference presided over by U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II. Discussions didn't resolve the department's lawsuit seeking release of the seeds, and another conference is set for Wednesday.
Customs officials are holding up 250 pounds of seeds from Italy.
Agriculture Department official Holly Harris VonLuehrte said the agency plans to apply for an import permit to obtain the seeds.
Eight projects are planned in Kentucky, and six universities are helping with research.
Unresolved is whether private farmers can participate in the projects.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ben Schecter says the government wants to be a partner, not an adversary.
Kentucky’s Agriculture Commissioner says he’s looking forward to a court hearing Friday over his department’s lawsuit against the federal government.
James Comer this week sued three government agencies—the U.S. Justice Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection--as well as U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, over a 250 pound shipment of hemp seeds that is being held by federal customs officials in Louisville.
Language in the latest federal Farm Bill allows certain states that have adopted a regulatory framework to plant hemp for the first time in decades, and Kentucky passed a law allowing pilot hemp planting projects run by state-funded universities.
But Comer says federal agents in Louisville have continued to come up with reasons why the latest hemp shipment must be held. The Commissioner says a hearing is set for 1 p.m. eastern time Friday before a federal judge in Louisville.
“We believe that it’s a good sign, that we’re going to be in front of a federal judge this soon after filing a motion," the Monroe County native told WKU Public Radio. "So, hopefully we can get the seeds, because these seeds are going to the University of Kentucky. It’s not like these seeds are going to some shady, upstart business somewhere.”
Kentucky's first legal planting of hemp seeds in decades is being postponed.
Officials from the Kentucky Agriculture Department, Kentucky State University, and pro-hemp groups were scheduled to plant hemp seeds Friday in Rockcastle County as part of a pilot project following the recent relaxing of state and federal rules regarding the crop.
But Agriculture Commissioner James Comer announced Thursday that the event has been postponed following a standoff between his department and federal officials over a detained shipment containing 250 pounds of hemp seeds.
The Agriculture Department filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the federal government, in an effort to get the shipment released by customs officials in Louisville.
Kentucky lawmakers passed a law allowing hemp to be planted as part of university-based research projects. Hemp advocates say the crop's fiber and oilseed can be used to make rope, paper, bio-fuels, cosmetics, and healthy foods.
In 1970, the federal government placed hemp on the list of Schedule One drugs, making it illegal to grow.
Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer says federal customs officials are blocking the arrival of imported seeds brought in as part of the state's first hemp crop in decades.
Comer said Monday the delay is "government overreach at its worst."
The 250-pound shipment of hemp seeds from Italy has been in limbo for days in Louisville. Comer's chief of staff, Holly Harris VonLuehrte, says the department is prepared to go to court unless customs officials release the seeds.
Hemp production was banned when the federal government classified the crop as a controlled substance related to marijuana.
The crop's comeback began with passage of a new federal farm bill. It allows state agriculture departments to designate hemp pilot projects for research in states such as Kentucky that allow the growing of hemp.
Kentucky's first legal hemp seeds almost didn't make it to the state. Agriculture Commissioner James Comer says the first batch of industrial hemp seeds was being held by customs officials in Chicago who were unaware of Kentucky's new hemp law.
Comer said the process to get them released was stressful but says federal officials finally agreed to forward them to his office. He says once they arrive, they'll be sent to the state's six research schools to be planted by the first week of June.
Comer says his office paid for the seeds using money donated from a private source.