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Comer: Washington trip to seek industrial hemp support a success

Says awareness was raised for production in Kentucky

FRANKFORT, Ky. (May 10, 2013) — Agriculture Commissioner James Comer returned to Kentucky confident that the federal government will act to legalize industrial hemp production in the near future, his office said Friday.

Agriculture Commissioner James Comer was No. 4 on the list of Most Influential People in Agriculture.
Agriculture Commissioner James Comer

Comer’s plane from Washington, D.C., landed in Kentucky at 1 a.m. Friday, and he was back in the office hours later to report on three days of meetings with administration officials and lawmakers.

“I feel like we had a very successful trip,” Comer said. “We had some great meetings with key people on both sides of the political aisle. We were able to educate people about the economic potential of industrial hemp. And we got a lot of media coverage that enabled us to raise awareness about hemp on a national level.”

The agriculture commissioner met with U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul; U.S. Reps. John Yarmuth, Thomas Massie, Brett Guthrie, Andy Barr, and Ed Whitfield; and Rep. Hal Rogers’ agriculture policy specialist. Comer also landed a coveted 20-minute meeting with House Speaker John Boehner and sat down with representatives of the White House, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Energy (where a DOE official attended the meeting wearing a hemp dress).

State Sen. Paul Hornback and former state Treasurer Jonathan Miller joined Comer for most of the meetings. They went to Washington to press for several avenues that could allow Kentucky farmers to grow industrial hemp and to urge members of Congress to support legislation that would legalize hemp production.

Eric Steenstra of Vote Hemp, an advocacy group that briefed the commissioner on the history of hemp on Capitol Hill, said he admired Comer’s fearless approach to D.C.

“For years, we’ve watched politicians wink and nod at the hemp issue and play a blame game when it didn’t go anywhere,” Steenstra said. “Commissioner Comer really wants to accomplish something for his state. And that was refreshing to see.”

While in Washington, Comer was interviewed by The Huffington Post, Politico and Roll Call. On Friday, Comer was interviewed by members of the Kentucky press corps and recorded an interview for the “Kentucky Newsmakers” program, which airs at 6 a.m. Sunday on WKYT-TV in Lexington.