Fancy Farm: Ag Commissioner James Comer Officially Enters 2015 Governor’s Race

By Jonathan Meador

Agriculture Commissioner James Comer beside his wife, T.J., as he announces his bid for governor.

Credit Alix Mattingly/WFPL News

  FANCY FARM—Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer officially announced his bid for governor Saturday at the 134th annual Fancy Farm political picnic. He’s the third candidate to launch an gubernatorial bid in the 2015 race.

"It’s been my dream come true to be your commissioner of agriculture," Comer said before a packed audience at the St. Jerome Church picnic grounds. "And I view the people of Western Kentucky as our family. So [my wife] T.J. and I have chosen this time, and this place, to say to all of you, I will be a candidate for governor in 2015."

The announcement now pits Comer, a Republican who succeeded Richie Farmer in 2012, against Hal Heiner, a Republican who narrowly lost to Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer in a 2010 election.

Earlier: James Comer Jabs Opponents Ahead of Fancy Farm

Thus far, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway is the lone Democratic candidate in the race.

In his Fancy Farm speech, Conway neglected the looming specter of a Comer candidacy—nor did he address Heiner—in lieu of trumpeting his accomplishments as attorney general; namely his office’s successes in combating online child pornography and cracking down on prescription pain pill abuse, he said.

Comer said he will officially file his paperwork Sept. 9 at an inaugural campaign event in Tompkinsville, Ky. According to Kentucky law, gubernatorial candidates must include a lieutenant governor in their ticket when they file their candidacy.

Speculation has centered on Sen. Chris McDaniel, a Republican state senator from Taylor Mill who owns a construction business. Elected in 2012, McDaniel is also chairman state Senate’s Budget Review Subcommittee on General Government, Finance, and Public Protection.

"You know, people have a lot of rumors out there," McDaniel said, adding that he’s been in talks with Comer about joining the ticket. "But, you know, right now I’m focused on doing my job in the Senate, I obviously own a business back home, and we’ve got a lot of races ahead of us this fall, so we’ll look forward to those."

Comer took aim at Heiner in his Fancy Farm speech, saying that the next governor won’t be "a millionaire from Louisville."

Comer denied that the comment suggests that his campaign is attempting to employ an urban-rural schism between himself and Heiner and Conway, both of whom live in Louisville."

"I’ve got a lot of support in Louisville," Comer said.

Heiner was not permitted to speak at this year’s event. Fancy Farm political director Mark Wilson said the event only allows sitting elected officials to speak. But just last year, GOP Senate candidate Matt Bevin, a conservative bell manufacturer who lost a primary race against U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell earlier this year, spoke at 2013’s picnic.

Bevin was also making rounds at Saturday’s picnic, and said he’s considering a running for governor, too.

"I’m considering it and I’m not considering it," Bevin said.

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U.S. congressmen, former CIA director to testify in support of Kentucky hemp bill

Staff report

hemp

Industrial hemp is a fiber and oil seed crop

with a wide variety of uses. Hemp fibers

have been used to manufacture hundreds

of products that include twine, paper,

construction materials, carpeting and clothing.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, U.S. Reps. John Yarmuth and Thomas Massie, former Director of Central Intelligence R. James Woolsey (of the Clinton Administration), and Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer will testify next week in support of an industrialized hemp bill.

Industrial hemp is a fiber and oil seed crop with a wide variety of uses. Hemp fibers have been used to manufacture hundreds of products that include twine, paper, construction materials, carpeting and clothing.

The Senate Agriculture Committee will hear the testimony Monday, Feb. 11 at 11 a.m. in Room 131 of the Capitol Annex in Frankfort. Senate Bill 50, sponsored by Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, establishes a framework to re-introduce industrial hemp into Kentucky’s agri-economy if and when the federal government acts to legalize it.

Immediately following the vote on SB 50, the group will move to Room 154 of the Capitol Annex to take questions from the media.

The bill has support from several groups and legislators. Its biggest critics are Operation UNITE, the Kentucky Narcotic Officers’ Association and the Kentucky Association of Chiefs of Police.

Operation UNITE said industrial hemp production in Kentucky is not economically sound, that it would impose an unnecessary financial burden on the state and could facilitate future efforts to legalize its cousin – marijuana. Police groups also say the legalization and growth of hemp in Kentucky would impede law enforcement officers’ marijuana eradication efforts, because “the plants are indistinguishable to the eye,” said Tommy Loving, executive director of the Kentucky Narcotic Officers’ Association.

The Kentucky Industrialized Hemp Commission says Kentucky has the perfect climate and soil to produce industrial hemp, and the farmers to grow it. Comer believes the crop could be a great economic boon to Kentucky.

The group recently commissioned an economic impact study to be performed by the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. It hopes such a study could have an impact on the discussion at the federal level to legalize industrial hemp.

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Caudill Seed becoming poster child for hemp legalization

Pat Caudill, left, is pictured with Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and Dan Caudill. The Caudill brothers are co-owners of Caudill Seed Co.






        hemp-300x200    3 types cannabis

Pat Caudill, left, is pictured with Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and Dan Caudill. The Caudill brothers are co-owners of Caudill Seed Co.

 
Kevin Eigelbach
Reporter- Business First
Email  | Follow Kevin on Twitter

Louisville-based Caudill Seed Co. is quickly becoming the poster child for the legalization of hemp production in Kentucky.

The company has been featured in a CBS News report, on WDRB-TV in Louisville and in several newspaper articles, with owners Dan Caudill and Pat Caudill explaining what they think a legal hemp crop would mean for Kentucky and their company.

The two became interested in the issue when they met James Comer, now Kentucky’s Secretary of Agriculture, during his 2011 campaign for the office. Legalizing hemp to give Kentucky farmers a new revenue stream is one of Comer’s priorities.

Because it has so many hills, Kentucky has a lot of land that’s only marginal for agriculture, Dan Caudill said in an interview. Hemp is an ideal crop for the state because it can grow nearly anywhere, just like tobacco.

Aside from farmers, the rest of the state would benefit if it could create hemp-processing facilities that would provide jobs, Caudill said. Hemp seeds can be processed into oil, and its tough fibers can be woven into fabrics to make clothes or entwined to make rope.

Every year, Caudill Seed imports from Brazil about 75 tractor/trailer loads of twine made from sisal that it distributes to farm retailers for bailing hay. The Caudill brothers would like to distribute rope made locally instead.

Chances of passage better than 50-50

The company expects to benefit from legalized hemp production in two ways, Dan Caudill said. It would be able to buy seed and sell it to farmers who want to grow hemp. And, it would process seed grown by Kentucky farmers and sell it to crushing companies that would extract the oil.

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Kentucky agriculture commissioner brings pro-hemp message to Lexington

 

hemp-300x200

 

 

Published: January 3, 2013

By Beverly Fortune — bfortune@herald-leader.com

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer brought his pro-hemp message to the Lexington Forum on Thursday.

Since taking office in 2011, Comer has held town meetings in all 120 Kentucky counties, inviting local legislators to attend, to promote industrial hemp. In the early 19th century, Kentucky was the nation’s leading hemp producer.

Comer is backing a bill in the General Assembly that would permit industrial hemp to again be cultivated.

Hemp would produce income for farmers and create manufacturing jobs for products using hemp, he said.

Farmers growing hemp would have to be licensed by the state and their fields inspected regularly, Comer said.

The Department of Agriculture, the state’s largest regulatory agency, would oversee cultivation and sales of the crop.

Hemp is a sustainable, annual crop that "is easy and cheap to grow," he said. "It grows well in this climate and requires very little fertilizer or insecticides." The plant grows best in marginal soils found in many Central and Eastern Kentucky counties.

For people, including law enforcement officers, who are concerned that marijuana might be grown in hemp fields and the hemp and marijuana plants confused, Comer said the two look completely different.

Marijuana is a short, bushy plant with lots of leaves; industrial hemp is tall, with a thick stalk and few leaves.

When grown near each other, hemp and marijuana cross-pollinate, and the hemp destroys buds on the marijuana plants, he said. "Industrial hemp is an enemy of marijuana," Comer said. "Law enforcement should be for industrial hemp."

The long-dormant Industrial Hemp Commission, revived under Comer, has contracted with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture to conduct an economic-impact study.

For the crop to be grown successfully, there has to be a market for the fibers, Comer said. "Many products we make from plastic, like car dashboards, armrests, carpet and fabrics, are made from hemp in other countries. Hemp is also used to make paper."

Comer said one major benefit of growing hemp would be the manufacturing jobs created to produce items using hemp fibers, seed and oil.

"The United States is the only industrial country in the world that doesn’t allow industrial hemp to be grown, yet many products Americans buy have hemp as an ingredient," he said. Hemp is legally grown in Canada and China, and throughout Europe.

If the General Assembly approves growing industrial hemp, the federal government would have to lift restrictions before it could be grown. "I want us to be ready when the federal government gives the go-ahead. I’m convinced they’re going to do that," Comer said.

Beverly Fortune: (859) 231-3251. Twitter: @BFortune2010.

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2013/01/03/2463466/state-agriculture-commissioner.html#storylink=cpy

Ag commissioner: Sheriff’s support for industrial hemp a big boost to legalization efforts

Industrial hemp was widely grown in Kentucky until the late 19th century and was re-established briefly in the 1940s to make products for the military.

 

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Nov. 28, 2012) — Agriculture Commissioner James Comer applauded Christian County Sheriff Livy Leavell Jr. on Wednesday for supporting the production of industrial hemp in Kentucky during the annual conference of the Kentucky Association of Counties in Louisville.

RELATED: Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission ramps up; receives $100,000 in donations

“Sheriff Leavell’s support is a big step for the industrial hemp initiative,” Comer said. “By having a high-ranking member of Kentucky’s law enforcement community on our side, we can more effectively break down any myths that are still attached to this potential crop. I am so grateful to all the local elected officials for their overwhelming support of this effort. Together, we will bring jobs to Kentucky and new opportunities to our farmers.”

Comer was joined in his remarks to KACo by Katie Moyer, chairperson of the Kentucky Hemp Coalition, and John Riley, a former magistrate from Spencer County. Moyer and Riley are members of the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission, which is chaired by Comer.

“I am so proud of my hometown sheriff,” Moyer said. “Sheriff Leavell made the effort to get the facts about industrial hemp — what it is, what it isn’t, and how it can benefit Kentucky’s economy.”

Comer told the assembled county judge/executives, magistrates, sheriffs and other county officials that legislation to allow Kentucky farmers to grow industrial hemp will be one of his top legislative priorities in 2013. The Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission will meet again before the 2013 session of the Kentucky General Assembly to finalize legislation it hopes will pass during the session.

Industrial hemp would create manufacturing jobs in Kentucky, Comer said, and provide farmers with another crop that would help them continue to make a living on the farm. He said it is important for Kentucky to be first in the nation to establish an industrial hemp production and manufacturing industry.

The industrial hemp initiative also continues to make progress on the national level. Recently elected U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie of northern Kentucky on Tuesday became the 36th co-sponsor of federal legislation that would require the federal government to honor state laws allowing production of industrial hemp. U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Bowling Green sponsored a companion bill in the U.S. Senate in August.

Industrial hemp was widely grown in Kentucky until the late 19th century and was re-established briefly in the 1940s to make products for the military. A Congressional Research Service study says hemp is contained in as many as 25,000 products in the global market including textiles, automotive applications, furniture, food products, paper, construction materials and personal care products.

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