FRANKFORT, Ky. (6/15/13) – The Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission unanimously elected Harrison County farmer Brian Furnish as its new chairman at the close of its meeting on Thursday after Agriculture Commissioner James Comer stepped aside in compliance with Senate Bill 50, industrial hemp legislation that is set to take effect at the end of the month.
“I have every confidence that Brian Furnish will take the reins and run with the mission of this group,” Comer said. “Like me, Brian is interested in new opportunities for agriculture and in bringing more jobs to Kentucky, and he is not afraid to ruffle some feathers in order to accomplish these goals.”
Comer agreed to step aside as chairman as a concession to House Democrats to pass SB 50 in the waning hours of the General Assembly’s 2013 session. Under the new law, the agriculture commissioner will serve as vice chairman.
As his first act as chairman, Furnish heaped praise upon his predecessor.
“If it hadn’t been for Commissioner Comer’s leadership, the hemp bill would have never even been heard in committee,” Furnish said. “Thanks in large part to Commissioner Comer, we passed legislation overwhelmingly, and Kentucky is now at the forefront of this exciting opportunity. I look forward to continuing this great work on behalf of Kentucky farmers.”
Before he stepped down as chairman, Comer reported on his trip to Washington in April with state Sen. Paul Hornback and former Kentucky Treasurer Jonathan Miller, both members of the commission.
“If the issue were put to a vote at the federal level like it was in Kentucky, I believe you would see overwhelming support,” Comer said. “I left Washington energized and optimistic.”
Comer said the Kentucky delegation had positive meetings with representatives of the Departments of Energy and Agriculture, White House staff, most of Kentucky’s congressional delegation, and House Speaker John Boehner.
Comer also reported that his office is meeting regularly with Gov. Steve Beshear’s office. Just last week, Beshear sent a letter to President Obama asking for his assistance in moving hemp production forward.
Information provided by Ted Sloan
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