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Agriculture Commissioner Comer Promotes 4-H, FFA, and KY Proud

Agriculture Commissioner James Comer was in Morgantown on Wednesday and joined Butler County Clerk Shirley E. Givens, Butler County 4-H and Butler County High School FFA leaders to announce that proceeds from voluntary donations to the Agricultural Program Trust Fund will be divided equally among 4-H, FFA, and Kentucky Proud.

“When Kentucky farmers renew their farm license plates, they can add a voluntary $10 donation that will be split evenly among these three fine organizations,” said Commissioner Comer. “FFA and 4-H give Kentucky’s young people opportunities to participate in constructive activities while they learn the value of hard work and discipline. Kentucky Proud helps Kentucky producers find new markets for their products. All three programs are vital to the future of Kentucky agriculture and Kentucky as a whole.”

In calendar year 2011 over 170,000 Kentucky farm plates were purchased or renewed, therefore the potential for donations is up to $1.7 million annually. The voluntary donation program has only been in place for two fiscal years and during that time total donations have been for 2010 $473,226.70 and for 2011 $336,592.36.

Commissioner Comer and leaders of 4-H and FFA believe these totals can easily be increased to $800,000 or more in the next two years, contributing several hundred thousand dollars to each organization.

In a live interview with WLBQ 1570 Comer also shared that his number-one goal as  Commissioner of Agriculture is to grow and expand markets for Kentucky farm products. The number-two goal is to enhance rural economic development.

“Industrial hemp can be a viable option to accomplish both goals,” said Comer.

Industrial hemp is an alternative crop which can thrive on Kentucky's soils and long growing seasons. It requires few pesticides and fertilizer which gives it a positive economic impact. It has many current uses including specialty papers, animal bedding, ropes and foods. It has many potential uses in the areas of automobile parts, replacements for fiberglass, upholstery and carpets. It can also be an integral part of making Kentucky a leader in the energy and bio-fuels market due to the fact that ethanol can be produced efficiently from industrial hemp.

Industrial hemp can also play a leading role in combating Kentucky's illegal drug problem. Industrial hemp production would be a nightmare for marijuana growers because Industrial help would cross-pollinate and destroy marijuana in its vicinity.

Industrial hemp needs to be processed within 25-50 miles of where it is grown. The Kentucky Department of Agriculture could work with farmers to create processing plants in rural, economically depressed areas that were once tobacco dependent but now are struggling to replace tobacco as the leading cash crop. This win-win scenario increases markets for Kentucky farmers and creates good paying jobs for rural Kentuckians.

Comer will work to pass Sen. Joey Pendleton's (D-Hopkinsville) Senate Bill 30 which would simply definite industrial hemp and allow the Kentucky Department of Agriculture to issue licenses and promulgate administrative regulations to carry out the act.

Comer was quick to point out that he does not support medical marijuana.  Industrial hemp and marijuana are totally different.


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