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.
An auction that sold off items from a failed fuel and pesticide testing lab run by the Agriculture Department has netted the state $1.65 million dollars. Agriculture Commissioner James Comer presented a check in that amount to Treasurer Todd Hollenbach on Friday. The money will go into the state’s general fund.
“Taxpayer dollars are a sacred trust, and my administration is dedicated to spending them wisely and giving back where appropriate,” said Comer.
The state Personnel Board has voted to investigate multiple merit system and employee abuses that allegedly took place in the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. The alleged abuses took place under then Commissioner Richie Farmer, and were detailed earlier this year in a scathing audit of the department.
An audit of Richie Farmer's two terms as Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner has revealed a toxic culture of entitlement and an extravagant misuse of taxpayers dollars, state employees and time.Current Agriculture Commissioner James Comer requested the audit earlier this year. State Auditor Adam Edelen released his final report today, showing more than a dozen infractions by Farmer and a consistent abuse of state law.