Ag report: May 16, 2014

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Comer sues U.S. Justice Department

to get hemp seeds released

Calling a Drug Enforcement Administration's earlier offer to release hemp seeds a "bait and switch" tactic, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture on Wednesday sued the U.S. Justice Department.

Agriculture Commissioner James Comer filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Louisville against the Drug Enforcement Administration, Customs and Border Protection, the Justice Department and Attorney General Eric Holder.

Comer is seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to force the U.S. Customs Service to release 250 pounds of Italian hemp seeds so they can be planted in Kentucky this spring.

"We had no other choice," said Comer's chief of staff, Holly Harris VonLuerhte.

According to the lawsuit, the state's hemp research will "suffer immediate, irreparable harm" if the seeds aren't released soon. Comer plans to ask for a hearing on the KDA's motions as early as Friday.

On Tuesday, Comer had negotiated with the DEA to clear the way for the state to get the hemp seeds with an expedited import permit.

Comer's office contends that the federal Farm Bill that Congress passed earlier this year, which will allow state departments of agriculture to grow test plots, means hemp is no longer considered a controlled substance. Marijuana, a related plant that has much greater levels of high-inducing THC than hemp, remains a controlled substance, although the Justice Department has backed off enforcement in states that have passed laws legalizing it.

According to the DEA's letter, only state departments of agriculture or institutions of higher education may grow hemp, and they "may not assign to others the authority to grow and cultivate industrial hemp."

The Agriculture Department is planning several research projects in conjunction with universities across Kentucky. The crop needs to be planted by June 1.

At least one project will involve private growers. It is expected to be planted Friday in Mount Vernon with seeds that were previously obtained elsewhere.


USDA’s disaster assistance programs

U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency has announced that farmers and ranchers can sign-up for disaster assistance programs.

The Livestock Indemnity Program and the Livestock Forage Disaster Program will provide payments to eligible producers for livestock deaths and grazing losses that have occurred since the expiration of the livestock disaster assistance programs in 2011, and including calendar years 2012, 2013, and 2014.

Enrollment is also underway for producers with losses covered by the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program and the Tree Assistance Program in 2011, when the programs expired, through 2014.

“These very important disaster assistance programs will help Kentucky producers that have been adversely affected by the extreme cold winter and past years drought,” said John W. McCauley, State Executive Director.

Producers also are encouraged to contact their county office ahead of time to schedule an appointment.

For more information, producers can review the 2014 Farm Bill Fact Sheet, check out the LIP, LFP, ELAP and TAP fact sheets online or visit any USDA Service Center.


USDA Sets Date for Soybean Request for Referendum

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is offering soybean producers the opportunity to request a referendum on the Soybean Promotion and Research Order, as authorized under the Soybean Promotion, Research, and Consumer Information Act.

Soybean producers who are interested in having a referendum to determine whether to continue the Soybean Checkoff Program are invited to participate.

The Request for Referendum will be conducted at USDA's county Farm Service Agency offices. To be eligible to participate, producers must certify and provide documentation that shows that they produced soybeans and paid an assessment on the soybeans during the period of Jan. 1, 2012, through Dec. 31, 2013.

From May 5-30, producers may obtain a form by mail, fax or in person from the FSA county offices. Forms may also be obtained via the Internet at www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/SoybeaninformationontheSoybeanRequestforReferendum during the same time period.

Additional information can be found on the Agricultural Marketing Service website, www.ams.usda.gov.



The Shelby County Extension Office will offer a series of Green Thumb Gardening once a month at 1117 Frankfort Road. The classes include botanical garden shrub and tree tour, June 19; saving heirloom seeds, July 24; establishing an emerald green lawn, Aug. 21; propagating plants through cuttings, Sept. 18; and putting the garden to bed/spring bulbs, Oct. 16. The cost for the series of classes is $15. Classes will be from 6:30 to 8 p.m. except for the fruit tree pruning class, which will be from 9 to 11 a.m. For one class, the cost is $5. Reserve a space by calling 633-4593.

The Farmland, Food and Livable Community Conference is scheduled for Oct. 20-22 at the Hilton Lexington Downtown. Participants will tour area farms, have mobile workshops and dine at a farmer-chef connection banquet. For more information on the conference, visit: www.farmland.org.

Classes on food gardening will again be offered this year at the Shelby County Extension office, 1117 Frankfort Road. You’ll learn to grow everything from potatoes to strawberries, cantaloupes to cucumbers. Classes start from 6:30 to 8 p.m. and run once a week through April 23. Classes are free but space is limited. For more information or to sign up, call 633-4593.


The Kentucky Ag Report is compiled weekly from news releases distributed by Keeton Communications and the Kentucky Press News Service.