Thursday, April 19, 2018
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AG TALK—From left, U.S. Congressman Andy Barr, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles were part of a roundtable discussion of agriculture last Friday at the Chenault Farm. Perdue discussed the trade war with China and legalized hemp during the event. Photo by Tom Marshall.
U.S. Ag secretary visits here
By Tom Marshall
Senior Advocate writer

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue addressed the nation’s escalating trade war with China and the future of legalized hemp during a visit to Mt. Sterling last week.

Perdue was in Mt. Sterling last Friday as part of his “Back to Our Roots” RV Tour in Kentucky, Ohio and Michigan. He visited Townsend’s Sorghum Mill in Jeffersonville and met with area farmers and local leaders at the Chenault Farm on Camargo Road.

Perdue addressed Kentucky farmers about the developing trade war with China.

“I understand your anxiety and the president understands your anxiety,” Perdue said. “He is committed personally to me and publicly to the farmers of America that he’s not going to allow them to be held hostage in these trade disputes with China ... He’s not going to allow farmers to be a weapon, the tip of the spear.”

China is considering tariffs on a number of farm products in retaliation of tariffs president Donald Trump has proposed on $50 billion worth of Chinese products.

During a roundtable discussion with a cross section of agriculture leaders and lawmakers, Perdue also addressed the possibility of legalized hemp in response to a question from Montgomery County High School FFA member Amber Dotson.

The Advocate further questioned the secretary about the issue following the roundtable. The secretary said the administration is keeping an open mind about industrial hemp.

“The Trump administration has not taken a position on legalized hemp,” Perdue told the Advocate. “If it turns out to be an economically viable crop I can assure you that we’ll look at that being part of the forte of American agriculture.”

Perdue noted that Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader from Kentucky, has introduced a bill to remove industrial hemp from a federal list of controlled substances.

Industrial hemp can be used in a number of products.

Opponents, particularly law enforcement, have attempted to block legalization because hemp is difficult to distinguish from marijuana, but contains only a miniscule amount of THC, the intoxicating agent associated with marijuana.

Perdue wouldn’t predict the outcome of McConnell’s bill.
Perdue assured the farmers in attendance that he and the Trump administration will work diligently to reduce harmful regulation.
As an example, he cited the Dodd-Frank Act, which placed further regulation on the financial sector. The secretary claims the law harms rural banks that commonly finance agricultural operations on the local level.

During the roundtable, Hilda Legg from the Kentucky division of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Rural Development Office, stressed to Perdue the importance of supporting rural America.

“Not just rural America needs rural development and rural prosperity, but all of America needs rural prosperity,” she told him.

Among the roundtable panelists were U.S. Congressman Andy Barr and Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles. Also included among the panelists were MCHS FFA members Dotson and Justin Arnett.
Perdue commented on the importance of FFA programs like that in place at MCHS and cited the Chenault Farm as a wonderful example in which to educate students.

Jeff Arnett, head of the agriculture program at MCHS, had taken Perdue and other leaders on a hayride tour of the Chenault Farm prior to the roundtable.

Perdue posed for photographs with FFA students at the conclusion of the roundtable.

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