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U.S. Rep. Comer talks politics with KACo's next president

Christie Dutton
christie.dutton@kaco.org
10/18/2018

Congressman James Comer reveals the ups and downs of D.C. and promising legislation for the Bluegrass State during a visit with KACo President-elect and Caldwell County Magistrate Elbert Bennett.

U.S. Rep. James Comer, R-KY, visited the Kentucky Association of Counties (KACo) Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018, to discuss national legislation and how it could impact Kentucky's counties.
 
One of his constituents, and KACo's next president, Caldwell County Magistrate Elbert Bennett spoke with the congressman about the federal Farm Bill's local impact, how hemp is creating opportunities in the state and the biggest challenge for counties. 


The Farm Bill is reauthorized once every five years, and the current Farm Bill will expire Sept. 30, 2018. Since the new Farm Bill will span the next five years, Comer says it's his biggest legislative priority.
"I don't think there's a more important piece of legislation in Washington for rural America than the Farm Bill," Comer said. "Because agriculture is the dominant industry in the overwhelming majority of rural counties all across America."


Comer said the Farm Bill is held up in Congress because of the work requirements to receive nutrition assistance in the House-passed bill. He also believes the bill could further enhance hunting tourism as a benefit to counties.

"I think there's a real opportunity for farmers to add value to what they already have but also for rural communities to also capitalize on this tourism," Comer said. "Because the sporting industry is a huge industry that can only happen in rural America."


Comer played a leading role in Kentucky's hemp industry, and recognizes beneficial impacts it could have on our state's livestock farmers.

"Murray State is also doing research with hemp to use it as a livestock feed," Comer said. "I think if that works out, and the preliminary results look like it works out, you're going to see a lot of hemp grown in Kentucky for livestock production because it's cheaper. It would be cheaper to grow hemp silage than corn silage."


Comer discussed one of the biggest challenges for Kentucky counties and elected county officials.

"I know that magistrates and commissioners, the small town mayors and city councilmen, they have a difficult job," Comer said. "More difficult than anyone in Congress, more difficult than anyone in the state legislature because they just don't have the revenue flow because the jobs just haven't been created in most of these rural communities in Kentucky."


On a lighter note, Caldwell County Magistrate and KACo President-elect Elbert Bennett asked Comer about his personal experience as a freshman congressman in Washington, D.C.


"The biggest problem with Congress is there are too many congressmen," Comer said jokingly. "With 435 members of Congress, it's hard to stand out, but luckily we've got the issues of agriculture and rural economic development that I think play well for me. I have credibility on those issues. There aren't a lot of people wanting to be the agriculture guy or the rural economic development guy because most members of Congress are from suburban and urban areas. So I feel like being on the Farm Bill gives me a platform to be able to influence the direction of rural America and ag policy, so I'm real happy about that."


KACo President-elect Bennett presented an award of appreciation to Congressman Comer for his continued support and dedication to Kentucky's counties.


Congressman Comer represents Kentucky's first congressional district, spanning 35 counties in western and central Kentucky. A Monroe County native, Comer served six terms in the Kentucky House and served as Kentucky's Commissioner of Agriculture from 2012-16. He has served in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2016. 

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