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Farm Bill gives and takes away

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By Brad Bowman

By Brad Bowman

editor@hclocal.com

U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Vanceburg) celebrated with other Kentucky legislators the amendment for hemp production, which survived the passing of the Farm Bill in early February.

The amendment is a small victory toward making hemp farming a reality in Kentucky.

“The hemp amendment in the farm bill will allow industrial hemp to be grown as part of a state pilot program,” Massie said. “The senate did not have a hemp amendment in their farm bill and when it went to the conference committee Sen.McConnell made sure it stayed in.”

The bill will allow universities and the Department of Agriculture in states where hemp is legal to grow by state law, to research and grow test plots. The research will also allow for market research to support a hemp economy.

The small victory comes almost on the one-year anniversary that Massie introduced HB 525, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act in 2013, which would allow farmers to grow industrial hemp.

Massie said he knew he had support of 49 other members for the amendment while HB 525 has sat referred to the subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations since Mar. 15, 2013.

State Sen. Paul Hornback, who has been a supporter of hemp production, said it is still a long way off.

“We have processors from outside the country who are interested now,” Hornback said. “We have to wait on the federal government to write the regulations and you know how long it takes for anything to happen in Washington. We could be waiting a few months to a couple of years.”

Hornback said that the Canadian hemp market has shown growth over the last year with promise.

“In 2012, they grew 75,000 acres of hemp in Canada. In 2013, they grew 150,000 acres of hemp,” Hornback said. “BMW uses the oils and fiber in hemp for their dashboards. We know Ford and Toyota would be interested in it.”

The Farm Bill will take away the direct payments to farmers who received funds whether they actually farm their land or not, but will place $7 billion in crop insurance relief for farmers over the next decade.

The new bill will cut $8 billion in food stamp funding over the next decade, decreasing benefits by about $90 per household, but Massie said will save taxpayer money with new requirements for assistance.

“We will save $ 8 million a year by changing the requirements,” Massie said. “Before, states could automatically qualify someone for food stamps if someone received $1 in heating assistance they automatically qualified for food stamp assistance. Now, the state will have provide $20 of heating assistance for individuals to qualify for food stamps. By implementing the threshold, the state cannot automatically engage in the loophole. It will save an estimated $16 billion over the next decade.”