By Jacqueline Pitts, The Bottom Line
FRANKFORT, Ky. — Before heading back to Washington, D.C. following the August recess, U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Ky. sat down with The Bottom Line to discuss many issues on the forefront nationally.
A trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, titled USMCA, United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, was reached in October 2018 and includes requirements such as 75 percent of automotive content to be made in North America, up from 62.5 percent, and that 40 to 45 percent of the automotive content is made by workers making at least $16 an hour.
While the agreement was reached last year, it still requires congressional approval which has not yet been voted on.
In an interview with The Bottom Line, Barr said the agreement must move forward and expressed a desire to see passage soon.
“Every single day that goes by that we do not approve the USMCA is a day that we do not create more jobs in America,” Barr said.
As for immigration reforms being passed through Congress, Barr noted the disagreements between the Democratically-controlled U.S. House of Representatives and the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate on issues such as border security and amnesty. And while the House passed a version of legislation addressing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Barr stated he does not see an agreement in sight on that issue (discussion at 4:00 in the video below).
On the issue of the opioid crisis being seen across the country, Barr touted the work of Congress in recent years to pass the Comprehensive Addiction Recovery through Effective Employment and Reentry (CAREER) Act to expand grants and targets funding for treatment, transitional housing, job training and placement services to help individuals in recovery find their footing and maintain their sobriety as well as other legislation to work to address the issue.
Barr noted the good work being done across Kentucky on the opioid epidemic and emphasized that work will continue on the federal level to ensure funding for needed programs to lower the number of opioid deaths and help get people back on their feet and back into the workforce (full discussion starting at 8:00).
One of the most popular topics in recent years, especially in terms of agriculture, has been industrial hemp. After a law was passed in Kentucky in 2014 to make it legal to grow industrial hemp followed by passage of federal law in 2018, Barr said Central Kentucky continues to be the epicenter of industrial hemp and that hundreds of jobs are being created each year in the industry.
“The opportunities really are endless, and we’re hearing amazing things about the conductivity of hemp fiber for telecommunications, and the possible applications of hemp in auto manufacturing, and marrying our agriculture sector in Central Kentucky with our auto manufacturing sector for interiors of vehicles. So it’s very, very exciting,” Barr said.
Barr stated one of the hurdles many hemp and CBD businesses are facing is the lack of banking services as banks are either reluctant to provide any credit or open up a bank account for them or more frequently the problem is card processing services, payment processors, are not willing to provide those services to a hemp or CBD-related business. As a result, Barr is presenting an amendment to legislation addressing the same issues for marijuana businesses in states where it is legalized. He hopes it will see passage in order to help Kentucky businesses with those issues.
Watch the full video below to hear Congressman Barr discuss infrastructure, immigration, trade, opioids, financial services, and other policies that impact Kentucky: