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US Ag Secretary gets out of DC and into hemp in KY
ecretary Perdue speaking and from left: Nancy Cox, dean of the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment; Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles; and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. (Kentucky Department of Agriculture photo)

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue toured the UK hemp research facility this week. Perdue was accompanied by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Kentucky Secretary of Agriculture Ryan Quarles.

Perdue praised Kentucky for its leadership in hemp production. "The tour opened Tuesday morning at Commonwealth Extracts in Louisville, which manufactures a variety of products from cannabidiol (CBD) derived from hemp. On Tuesday afternoon, Secretary Perdue saw hemp in the ground at Spindletop Farm in Lexington, a research farm of the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment." (press release)

Perdue most likely was glad to get out of the Capital City to the friendlier climes of Kentucky. The Secretary has been in the news in recent days for a controversial decision to move out of the DC area two research arms of his agency. The Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) provide information and research to Congress for legislation and to the general public.

Scientists and hundreds of staff were given an ultimatum - move to Kansas City or find another job.

"As it now stands, USDA is planning to relocate all but about 75 ES and NIFA personnel to Kansas City by August, and already both agencies have experienced significant departures of senior personnel who have already decided they're unwilling to relocate."

In December, reports were that House Democrats planned to stop the move. But they dithered around and nothing happened. Affected employees formed a union to negotiate with their boss, but that didn't appear to be successful. Some turned their backs on him when he spoke to them recently in a defiant gesture, but otherwise that too came to naught.

According to press reports, there's no office waiting for new KC employees. If ag employees decide to move and need to look for a new home, they'll have to do so on their own time and their own nickel.

What first looked like a money saving move - after all -everything has to be cheaper in KC than in DC - is beginning to have dark sticky overtones. Moving ag research out of the home it's been in for decades will slow up reports and statistics at a time when farmers badly need good information. Tariffs, flooding in the Midwest and record heat spurring drought and wildfires in some regions and record rainfall in others are among the issues facing today's farmers. Congress budgets money based on data. When that data is not available or is unreliable, allocation of resources will also be unreliable and unavailable.

The need for stable reliable agricultural, nutritional, rural data (even if some findings offend the sensibilities of the pols who hate the words "climate change") is needed more now than ever.

With moving day set for August, it's probably too late to ask Senator McConnell to persuade his pal Sonny to leave well enough alone.

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