U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced today that his language to legalize industrial hemp is officially included in the finalized Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (Farm Bill). The Farm Bill Conference Report takes serious steps to ensure the future of American agriculture, and it contains the legislation — championed by Majority Leader McConnell — that would empower farmers to begin cultivating industrial hemp, a crop that can play a key role in the economic future of Kentucky and the nation.
The Farm Bill Conference Report was signed by conferees last night, including Senator McConnell who signed it with a pen made from hemp grown in Kentucky. U.S. Representative James Comer (KY-01), another Farm Bill conferee and the sponsor of Senator McConnell’s hemp provision in the House of Representatives, also signed the Farm Bill Conference Report.
Senator McConnell’s measure 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.
“Last year alone, Kentucky hemp recorded more than $16 million in product sales through the state pilot program I previously secured, demonstrating that hemp holds great potential for the future of Kentucky agriculture,” said Senator McConnell. “My Hemp Farming Act as included in the Farm Bill will not only legalize domestic hemp, but it will also allow state departments of agriculture to be responsible for its oversight. In Kentucky, that means that Commissioner Ryan Quarles, another champion of hemp, will be able to help farmers thrive. When the Senate votes on this legislation in the coming days, we will also be voting to give farmers throughout the country the chance to tap into hemp’s potential and take part in its future.”
“When I was elected Commissioner of Agriculture, I promised to take Kentucky’s hemp program to the next level and establish our state as the epicenter of the industry in the United States,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles. “This Farm Bill helps achieve that goal, and demonstrates that hemp is no longer a novelty but a serious crop that will unleash economic opportunity for our farmers. We would not be here today without the unwavering support of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and our congressional delegation.”
In collaboration with agriculture leaders in Kentucky and throughout the nation, Senator McConnell utilized his position as Senate Majority Leader to secure language in the 2014 Farm Bill to authorize hemp research pilot programs. He built on that success with federal legislation to ensure that hemp produced from the pilot programs could be transported, processed, and marketed. Under the guidance of Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Quarles and his predecessor, now-U.S. Representative Comer, these programs have allowed Kentucky farmers to both research the plant and to demonstrate its full potential.
“Without Senator McConnell’s leadership on the 2018 Farm Bill and the Hemp Language, it would not have gotten this far. I am grateful that the Majority Leader found this issue so important that he appointed himself as a Farm Bill conferee to ensure his bill to legalize hemp will become a reality. As a Kentucky hemp farmer and processor, it is very important to me that Congress passes this bill and sends it to the President’s desk,” said Brian Furnish, Director of Farming & Global Production at Ananda Hemp in Cynthiana, Kentucky.
“We appreciate Senator McConnell’s unwavering support and leadership on behalf of hemp in Congress. By securing hemp legalization in the Farm Bill, Kentuckians can feel confident in the future of hemp and fully embrace its potential as an agricultural crop. This will open a vast amount of new opportunities for farmers, processors, retailers, and entrepreneurs like us here in Kentucky and nationwide,” said Alyssa Erickson, Co-founder of Kentucky Hempsters.
The Farm Bill Conference Report is expected to be approved by the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives in the coming days; it will then be sent to President Donald Trump for his signature. In addition to the hemp measure, 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 seizes on a number of opportunities to invest 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.
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.