Ag commissioner blasts Dems over hemp bill amendment
by Jack Latta
Kentucky Department of Agriculture Commissioner blasted Speaker Stumbo following a Democratic amendment to Senate Bill 50, which he said threatens to kill the measure with a redundant regulatory riposte.
Commissioner James Comer came out firing Tuesday, following the filing of amendments by House Democrats late Monday afternoon. The amendments appear to make both the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and the Kentucky State Police responsible for testing registered hemp fields.
“House Speaker Greg Stumbo continues to play games at the expense of the people,” Comer said. “Why in the world would anyone put two government agencies in charge of the exact same responsibility, especially when the Department of Agriculture has shown that it can perform testing at $20 per test, and the State Police have stated that it would cost them in excess of $750 per test?”
Stumbo said that the amendment was “clean-up language” which provides some maneuvering room if the current bill’s requirements are not sufficient for any new federal standards which might be put in place if the ban on hemp is lifted.
“Let me add that nobody has ever brought any evidence to show that there is a viable market for hemp,” said Stumbo. “The statute requires the Hemp Commission to have a feasibility study done every December, and that hasn’t been done yet, so the bill was fairly flawed when it got here.”
The amendments to SB 50 were filed Monday afternoon by Rep. Richard Henderson (D-74). According to Comer, he had not been informed of or consulted with about the amendments. In hearings in both the House and Senate agriculture committees, Department of Agriculture representatives stated that the could perform testing at $20 per test. KSP officials stated that it would cost them $750 to test each field, and that the hemp testing would place a significant financial burden on their testing laboratory.
“We told the General Assembly that we would not need any additional funding or personnel to perform the responsibilities in SB 50,” said Comer. “I sure hope that House Democrats will hold any other government agency saddled with the exact same responsibility to the same standard.”
Currently, the KDA performs a wide variety of regulatory responsibilities within the state including: checking fuel prices, commercial scales, inspecting amusement park rides, testing motor fuel for impurities and octane level, and conducting random inspections, and others.
Comer says that conducting tests of registered hemp fields could be folded into the departments other regulatory responsibilities easily and efficiently.
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