WASHINGTON (KT) – President Donald Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill into law with Kentuckians playing major roles in its passage and implementation.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sponsored the measure and praised the president’s action.
“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,” the Louisville Republican said.
“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.”
Other Kentuckians who were at the White House for the signing ceremony included First District Congressman James Comer, Sixth District Congressman Any Barr and Kentucky Ag Commissioner Ryan Quarles, who also put Kentucky at the forefront of industrial hemp.
Quarles submitted Kentucky’s state hemp plan to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for approval as required in the 2018 farm bill, making Kentucky the first state in the nation to apply for USDA approval of its hemp program.
“Kentucky’s regulatory framework perfectly aligns with the requirements spelled out in the farm bill,” Quarles said. “Hemp growers, processors, and manufacturers deserve swift action so they can proceed with confidence. Kentucky has led the charge on industrial hemp with bipartisan support for the past five years. Now we are eager to take the next step toward solidifying Kentucky’s position as the epicenter of industrial hemp production and processing in the United States.”
He presented to the plan to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue immediately following the bill-signing ceremony.
The federal farm bill that Congress passed last week assigns regulatory authority of industrial hemp to the states and establishes minimum requirements that a state regulatory framework must meet to win USDA approval. The 2018 act removes industrial hemp from the federal Controlled Substances Act and gives hemp growers access to USDA programs such as crop insurance.
Individuals and businesses must be licensed by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture to grow or process industrial hemp in Kentucky. The KDA has received more than 1,000 applications to participate in the state’s industrial hemp research pilot program in 2019.
An informational and networking session in October in Elizabethtown attracted some 750 farmers, processors, manufacturers, educators, and others interested in participating in the program.
Participants in the 2018 program grew more than 6,700 acres of industrial hemp, the most in the five-year history of the program and more than double the acreage grown in 2017. Kentucky licensed processors paid Kentucky growers $7.5 million for harvested hemp in 2017 and reported $25.6 million in capital improvements and investments and $16.7 million in gross product sales.
Under Kentucky’s industrial hemp research pilot program, the KDA works closely with state and local law enforcement officers and provides GPS coordinates of approved industrial hemp planting, processing, and storage sites to law enforcement before any hemp is planted. Participants also must pass background checks and consent to allow program staff and law enforcement officers to inspect any premises where hemp or hemp products are being grown, handled, stored, or processed.
Quarles also applauded Congress and President Trump for a farm bill that will maintain federal programs that are vital to Kentucky agriculture.
“The farm bill maintains and enhances important protections for grain and dairy farmers who have endured low commodity prices for the past five years,” he said. “It also locks in funding for the Market Access Program, which helps farmers and agribusinesses sell American products abroad, and animal health programs to protect our livestock from disease outbreaks.”
Quarles added, “We appreciate the work of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Congressman James Comer on the conference committee to get a farm bill that serves the needs of Kentucky agriculture. We also are grateful to President Trump for signing this legislation, which is critical to the future of rural America.”