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Agriculture highlighted in 2019

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By Daniel Elliott

Now that the 2019 Legislative Session is over, I am not in Frankfort on a daily basis. However, I still return quite a bit for meetings. I like the drive to Frankfort because it gives me the opportunity to see so much of Kentucky. Some Representatives have farther to travel than others, but each of us gets to see the vast beauty that our great Commonwealth has to offer. A lot of that beauty is the direct result of the work put in by Kentucky farmers. Agriculture is the lifeblood of our state, and an industry which provides an economic foundation to a rural state like ours. That is why my colleagues and I are very proud to tackle important agricultural issues.

One of the measures we passed this session seeks to help Kentucky consumers like you and me by requiring meat to be properly labeled if it is made in a lab. Did you know that several companies are developing cell-cultured animal tissue for human consumption? These “fake meat” products are working their way into our food chain and HB 311 prohibits cultured animal meat produced in a lab from being labeled as meat. Instead, it would bear the appropriate label that informs consumers of how it was created. We felt this issue was so important to be ahead of this issue that we also passed HR104, which urges the U.S. Congress to give the U.S. Department of Agriculture authority over labeling requirements for imitation, cultured and cell-cultured meat products.

We also worked with the Kentucky Senate to put some measures in place to empower young farmers. SB 246 creates a farmer small business tax credit and would allow a farmer to receive a credit for selling a farm to a beginning farmer. The maximum credit for each year is $25,000 with a lifetime allowance of $100,000 and will help young farmers just starting out.

We also continued discussion on two important issues – hemp and farmer suicide prevention - I look forward to working on them through the interim.

Until last year hemp was outlawed nationwide since 1970. However, the 2014 federal farm bill allowed states to engage in pilot programs under certain conditions and industrial hemp has been grown in Kentucky since 2014 under a state-regulated research pilot program. The crop itself has a long history in our state, with early settlers growing hemp to be made into rope and other products. Kentucky’s agricultural leaders believe strongly that industrial hemp could pay off for farmers.

This session, the House approved HB 197, which would have expanded its definition of industrial hemp to match language in the recently signed 2018 Farm Bill. The bill sought to include in the classification of hemp the seeds of industrial hemp, extracts, cannabinoids and isomers, among other components. We also passed HCR 43, aimed at social media companies who have policies that harm Kentucky-based businesses that manufacture hemp products like CBD oil and hemp seed.

Another piece of legislation that passed the House but did not make it through the Senate is HCR 62. The resolutionestablishes September 18 as Farmer Suicide Prevention Day and urges state agencies to work with agricultural entities to establish a central point of contact for farmers experiencing stressful times. A 2012 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggested that male farmers in seventeen states took their lives at a rate two times higher than the general population. Suicide can be an uncomfortable topic for a lot of people, but House Concurrent Resolution 62 is the beginning of a conversation. We need to raise awareness when it comes to the stress that those in the agriculture field are facing.

I would like to hear from you regarding your interest in any of these issues, agricultural or otherwise. Please contact me with your thoughts and ideas on topics we may address in the coming months. Also, I hope to continue these updates on the work we did this session over the weeks to come so please keep reading. In the meantime, I can be reached here at home anytime, or through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181. If you would like more information, or to e-mail me, please visit the legislature’s website www.legislature.ky.gov.