LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he’s “hopeful and optimistic” but “not here to spike the ball in the end zone” when it comes to legalizing industrial hemp.
Growing hemp for industrial purposes is allowed in Kentucky on a trial basis. The US farm bill that passed four years ago was meant to test whether the crop was viable. Some Kentucky companies have proven that it could become a cash crop, but there's a major hurdle ahead and a wildcard in a House divided.
On July 4 week from DC, fresh off of orchestrating the farm bill's success through the Senate, Leader Mitch McConnell got a firsthand look at Kentucky Proud products made from hemp.
From insulation and other home building products to automotive parts, the plant's potential was on display at Sundstrand in Louisville.
"Making sure people understood it was not its’ illicit cousin was a real challenge five years ago,” said Leader McConnell. “Now, I think everybody kind of gets it that this is a different plant.”
Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles has lead the charge with the pilot program pushing for more products and projects, larger crops and removing the crop from the US controlled substances list. But even though the future seems bright in Kentucky, a cloud of uncertainty looms on the horizon in DC. Legalizing industrial hemp sailed through with bipartisan support of the Senate's farm bill, the US House has to take a second look and the first time was not pretty, and it did not include the hemp provision.
"There's a lot of good policy in there and I would say the hemp policy is a good provision that a lot of Democrats would support,” said Congressman John Yarmuth. “But, again, it gets complicated by these other factors.”
House Democrats, like Louisville Congressman John Yarmuth, objected to work requirements for SNAP or food stamp recipients. While Republicans like Leader McConnell support work requirements, they knew that lacked enough support to pass the Senate so their final farm bill did not include them.
The farm bill is back in the House where a committee will decide what to keep in. and try and pass a final plan.
“I'm hopeful and optimistic but I'm not here to spike the ball in the end zone,” insisted McConnell. “We don't have a final bill yet and we don't have a presidential signature yet but I'm optimistic.”
It could take a couple of months for the farm bill to work its way back through the House. If it passes in the Senate's form, the crop would be regulated by the US Department of Agriculture and state Ag commissioners and eligible for crop insurance, but there would be no government subsidies and industrial hemp would be removed from the list of controlled substances.