James Comer

The recent talk in Frankfort about legalizing industrial hemp hasn't convinced the head of the Kentucky Narcotic Officer's Association. Tommy Loving, who also leads the Warren County Drug Task, says he fears marijuana growers will plant their crops next to hemp, making it difficult for law enforcement to distinguish between the two.

Some agriculture experts say planting the two crops together would destroy the potency of the marijuana over time, but Loving told WKU Public Radio that wouldn't deter those looking to hide from law enforcement.

"If you plant marijuana with hemp surrounding it, for instance, in one growing season, you're not going to diminish that much of the THC content in the marijuana. So your marijuana crop is still going to be a sellable commodity,” said Loving.

Speaking after Monday's meeting of the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission, state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer responded to law enforcement opposition to hemp legalization.

For supporters of legalizing hemp, it's a case of good news and bad news.

The good news? A bill filed in the Kentucky legislature that would allow farmers to grow hemp if federal restrictions are lifted is likely to have a hearing next month in the Senate Agriculture Committee, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader

However, it remains uncertain whether the measure will be allowed to receive a vote. Sen. Paul Hornback, a Georgetown Republican and chairman of the committee, says members of his own party might block the committee from voting on the issue.

The Senate Republican Caucus will meet Feb. 6 in a closed-door meeting to discuss the measure.

Understanding that veterans have a higher unemployment rate than the population as a whole, Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer is launching two programs to help veterans find work.  The Homegrown by Heroes initiative will place a label on food items produced by Kentucky veterans. 

It's like the Kentucky Proud symbol, but includes a flag in the background and a veteran saluting.

"We've been getting calls from many other states and this is something I believe will be a nation model as a way to help market farm products by our military veterans," Comer remarked at a news conference Tuesday at the Boone National Guard Center in Frankfort..

Comer is launching another program called Kentucky Proud Jobs for Vets.  The initiative will maintain a database of farmers and agri-businesses looking for workers.  The database will be shared with military support groups like USA Cares.  Comer says many people like hiring veterans because of their strong work ethic and service to the country.

The push to legalize industrial hemp in Kentucky has picked up another major supporter.

The state’s largest business group, the Kentucky Chamber, announced Friday that it supports hemp as a crop for oil and fiber.

Agriculture Commissioner James Comer touted the support on Twitter quickly after securing it. Comer has long said hemp could help struggling farmers in Kentucky turn profits.

Many of the state’s federal lawmakers support the issue as well, including Congressmen Andy Barr, John Yarmuth and Thomas Massie and Senator Rand Paul.

Kentucky Sheriffs' Association Executive Director Jerry Wagner says his group hasn't decided on supporting or opposing legalizing industrial hemp.

A bill to legalize hemp was filed in the Kentucky Senate Friday by the  agriculture committee chair.

Comer does not support legalizing hemp's cousin crop, marijuana.

Kentucky’s agriculture commissioner is leveling criticism against the Environmental Protection Agency regarding a pollution control plan in Jefferson County.

In an interview with the Courier-Journal, James Comer came out swinging against water quality sampling conducted for the Floyds Fork Pollution Control Plan. The waterway serves as a focal point for Louisville’s newest string of parkland, but it currently fails to meet federal water quality standards. Comer says he’s worried that water quality sampling done at the site could result in new EPA regulations.

The Monroe County native says he’s especially concerned at the prospect of the EPA imposing new rules on how much fertilizer farmers can spread on their fields. But EPA officials and the Kentucky Division of Water both say the federal government doesn’t have the authority to impose limits on fertilizer applications and farm runoff.

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.

Kentucky's agriculture commissioner says the state's four-year-old fuel and pesticide testing lab has not lived up to its initial billing. James Comer told members of the state's interim joint committee on agriculture that his predecessor, Richie Farmer, sold the fuel lab as a great investment and moneymaker for the commonwealth.

While the high cost of gas hurts most consumers, Kentucky's agriculture commissioner says farmers are especially hard-hit. James Comer says fuel costs impact every part of food production, leaving farmers with little recourse when gas prices spike.

Kentucky's agriculture commissioner says he sees no reason why the state can't double its agriculture sales in the coming years. James Comer tells WKU Public Radio high commodity prices helped Kentucky set a record of $4.9 billion in agriculture receipts in 2011. He says by helping Kentucky farmers increase production and gain access to new markets overseas, sales could skyrocket.

A program dedicated to showcasing Kentucky food could be headed to a Walmart near you. Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer says the world's largest retailer has agreed to stock Kentucky Proud shelves in some of its Bluegrass State stores, which would contain food and other products made in the commonwealth.

Recent calls by high-ranking Kentucky officeholders to legalize industrial hemp have put the spotlight on the crop and what it might mean for Bluegrass State farmers. Both U.S. Senator Rand Paul and Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer say they want to see federal and state law changed to allow farmers to grow hemp legally.

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture usually deals with bigger farmers but has joined with the Governor's Office of Agricultural Policy to work with some younger potential growers. First lady Jane Beshear and Agriculture Commissioner James Comer have launched a program to show young people how they can plant their own gardens and grow food, even on a patio.

Agriculture Commissioner James Comer says he is restarting the long-dormant Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission. The General Assembly created the commission ten years ago to look into hemp's potential in the commonwealth, but it has never met.

Two of Kentucky’s highest profile Republicans are teaming up to rally for industrial hemp. U.S. Senator Rand Paul and Agriculture Commissioner James Comer will hold a news conference on Thursday to double down on their support for the crop, which can be used for textiles or oil.

Lieutenant Governor Jerry Abramson's assertion that the Fancy Farm picnic is no longer a relevant political event has inspired a growing backlash.

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