WASHINGTON, DC (WBKO) -- U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) praised President Trump for signing into law the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (Farm Bill). The measure contains the legislation – authored and championed by Majority Leader McConnell -- that will empower farmers to expand cultivation of industrial hemp, a crop that has the potential to play a key role in the agricultural future of Kentucky and the nation.
Senator McConnell’s bill legalizes hemp as an agricultural commodity by removing it from the federal list of controlled substances. It also gives states the opportunity to become the primary regulators of hemp production, allows hemp researchers to apply for competitive federal grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and makes hemp eligible for crop insurance. This measure builds upon the hemp pilot programs, which Senator McConnell secured in the 2014 Farm Bill.
“With the stroke of his pen, President Trump has made it official. My bill legalizing industrial hemp is law. Now that the President has signed it, Kentucky‘s farmers can continue to lead the nation in the growing, processing and manufacturing of industrial hemp,” said Senator McConnell. “I am confident the ingenuity of Kentucky’s farmers and producers will find new and creative uses for this exciting crop. We are at the beginning of a new era, and I cannot wait to see what comes next. As Senate Majority Leader, I was proud to do my part to bring hemp back to Kentucky, and I look forward to continuing to support its bright future in the Bluegrass State.”
In collaboration with agriculture leaders in Kentucky and throughout the nation, Senator McConnell secured language in the 2014 Farm Bill to authorize hemp research pilot programs. He also used his position as a senior member of the Appropriations Committee to insert provisions in yearly appropriations bill to ensure that hemp produced from the pilot programs could be transported, processed, and marketed without interference from the federal government. Under the guidance of Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles and his predecessor, now-U.S. Representative James Comer, these programs have allowed Kentucky farmers to both research the plant and to demonstrate its full potential. The passage of the 2018 Farm Bill -- which includes Senator McConnell’s Hemp Farming Act of 2018 -- is a culmination of years of work on this issue.
According the 2017 processor production reports: Kentucky licensed processors paid Kentucky growers $7.5 million for harvested hemp. Additionally, Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program processor licensees reported $25.6 million in capital improvements and investments and $16.7 million in gross product sales. In 2017, more than 3,200 acres of hemp were being grown across Kentucky.
In addition to the hemp initiative, the Farm Bill strengthens the safety measures that directly help commodity producers as they confront low prices, volatile markets, and the constant threat of natural disasters. It also invests in the future of American agriculture and rural communities by expanding rural broadband, enhancing water infrastructure, and continuing the fight against the opioid epidemic that is devastating rural America.