McConnell: Industrial hemp research to advance in Kentucky

At McConnell’s request, Obama Administration clarifies industrial hemp’s eligibility for federal research grants

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Monday that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued guidance clarifying that industrial hemp research programs are eligible for existing federal research grants.

Last year, Senator McConnell led a bipartisan Congressional letter urging Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to clarify conflicting information regarding industrial hemp’s eligibility for federal research grants. Additionally, Senator McConnell secured a measure urging the secretary to clarify the agency’s authority to award federal funds to industrial hemp research projects deemed compliant with the 2014 Farm Bill in the Senate FY 2017 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill.

Senator Rand Paul was a signatory of the bipartisan letter and supports the language included in the appropriations bill.

The announcement from USDA that certified pilot programs for industrial hemp are now eligible for National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) federal grant funding, is a welcome clarification that will hopefully provide ample support to a number of pilot programs in Kentucky.

“USDA determining that industrial hemp research projects are eligible to compete for federal funding through existing grant programs is a good development for Kentucky farmers and helps ensure that industrial hemp pilot programs can continue with federal assistance,” said Senator McConnell. “It also demonstrates that the federal government agrees that this is a crop worth researching. Senator Paul and I have heard from countless Kentuckians regarding industrial hemp’s potential to expand agricultural opportunities for farmers and grow our economy and we look forward to continuing to work with the Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles, researchers in the state, and our colleagues in Congress to ensure that hemp research continues to move forward and that Kentucky remains the lead state in demonstrating how industrial hemp could once again be a cash crop for Kentucky.”

“Historically, Kentucky was a leader in hemp production, and it is already staking out its position at the head of the pack once again,” said Senator Paul. “I’m pleased to see the USDA respond to Kentucky farmers’ concerns by officially leveling the playing field for industrial hemp pilot programs.”

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