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Minutes for HB2173 - Committee on Agriculture

Short Title

Establishing a commercial industrial hemp program.

Minutes Content for Wed, Feb 13, 2019

Vice-Chair Smith opened the hearing on HB2173 at 3:32pm.  He requested that the Committee hold all questions until after all conferees had testified.

Kyle Hamilton, Assistant Revisor, Office of The Revisor of Statutes, provided an overview of HB2173 and the statutes that it affects.  (Attachment 1)   There is a Fiscal Note for HB2173.

PROPONENTS

Kenneth Titus, Chief Legal Counsel, Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA), appeared before the Committee in support of HB2173(Attachment 2)   In 2018, the United States Congress passed a new Farm Bill allowing states to establish plans for the commercial production of hemp. The Farm Bill creates conditions that will allow the commercial production of industrial hemp in every state sooner or later. There are two paths to allowing commercial hemp. The first is by developing a state plan and submitting it to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for approval. The second is to wait until the USDA develops national standards that will be effective in every state that does not develop its own commercial hemp production plan.

HB2173 would authorize KDA to develop a state plan that contains the minimum standards set by federal law for a commercial hemp program (licenses, location, testing, inspections, and penalties for violations) and any other necessary requirements to implement a plan through the adoption of administrative regulations.

Since there is currently no timeline in place for USDA to adopt their nationwide plan for commercial hemp production and since there is no way to know for certain what regulations USDA might ultimately adopt, KDA believes that it is in the best interest of Kansas producers to move forward with a state plan for the commercial production of industrial hemp.

Zack Pistora, Kansas Sierra Club, appeared before the Committee in support of HB2173.  (Attachment 3)    This bill would pave the way for expanded agricultural opportunity in Kansas, as it has for many other states that have legalized research and commercial production of industrial hemp. As a top ten agriculture state, Kansas ought to accelerate itself as a state leader in U.S. hemp production.  Industrial hemp has a variety of uses and can be highly profitable for farmers who may already be struggling financially with growing current commodities.  Industrial hemp would fit well for Kansas given our talented research facilities, farmers, and biofuel sector.  However, to maximize the economic potential as well as fairness to Kansas farmers, lawmakers must ensure that a commercialized hemp program in Kansas is affordable and available to all law-abiding Kansas farmers with as little bureaucracy and low licensing fees as possible.

John Donley, Kansas Farm Bureau, submitted written only testimony to the Committee in support of HB2173(Attachment 4) 

NEUTRALS

Joe Bisogno, CEO, KNC Brands, appeared before the Committee as a neutral of HB2173.  (Attachment 5)   Industrial Hemp Is Not Pot - But It Is A Pot Of Gold For Kansas. I've been saying that for years, and it's true, so long as we let farmers be farmers and grow legal hemp. KMC Brands, based in DeSoto, Kansas, is an industry leader in the production and processing of industrial hemp.  In January KMC opened America's Hemp Academy in DeSoto to train farmers on how to grow hemp and to train others on how to process hemp. The response has been overwhelming We have so much opportunity with hemp, but it won't be realized if we don't change HB2173 and our hemp rules and regulations to support our farmers. Unfortunately, HB2173 still treats industrial hemp as a controlled substance and treats our Kansas farmers as potential criminals.

The bottom line is industrial hemp is a legal product, but our laws and rules and regulations don't reflect that. In my opinion, the KBI doesn't need to have such a heavy hand in regulating and monitoring industrial hemp. We have existing laws in place that restrict marijuana. For example, it's also illegal to dump chemicals in our rivers and streams, and to have unsanitary conditions in restaurants, yet the KBI isn't involved in those areas.

There were no opponents of HB2173.

All Conferees stood for questions from the Committee.

There were questions from the Committee on issues regarding the amount of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in industrial hemp and how this could be controlled to prevent the destruction of crops. Jeff Vogel, Director, Plant Protection and Weed Control, KDA and Mr Bisagno reviewed the use of certified seeds, planting/harvesting times and samples, environmental factors and limitations to prevent cross pollination.  In general there would be no THC if crop is gotten out of the ground in 90 days.

In response to questions concerning crop insurance, Greg Winter, Producer, Lockton Insurance Companies, Denver CO,  advised that there is insurance available for crop damage due to natural causes, but did not know whether there was coverage due to government destruction for excess THC.

Mr Bisogno, responding to a question concerning planting costs, indicated it would be approximately $2000/acre minimum ($1/seed - 2000 seeds/acre)

The hearing on HB2173 was closed at 4:14pm.

The Chair asked Mr Hamilton and Mr Titus to brief the Committee about how the bill separates the research and commercial programs.

Chair Highland adjourned the meeting at 4:25pm.