U.S. Sen. Rand Paul spent Thursday in western Kentucky, where he addressed a wide range of subjects, including threats from North Korea, industrial hemp farming, and the effort to repeal and replace Obamacare.
At Lowe Farms in Murray, Kentucky, the senator learned about the struggles associated with farming hemp in Kentucky.
Joe Kelly, a hemp farmer with more than 700 acres, explained the crop has potential to be more profitable than corn or soybeans. Kelly also went into federal roadblocks he’s faced.
For instance, hemp seeds can be eaten by humans as a soy substitute. You can buy the product at Target or Whole Foods. If you buy hemp seeds at the grocery store, you’ll notice on the label that they were imported from Canada.
Industrial hemp can also be used for livestock feed. The plant’s root is full of omega 3 fatty acids, according to a hemp expert at Murray State University.
Kelly said, due to regulations imposed by the Food and Drug Administration, he cannot sell the product.
Paul said he thinks giving Canada all the shelf space is a missed opportunity for the crop. “I don’t understand why the FDA would have anything to do with me wanting to feed this to a chicken,” he said. “Why is that regulated at all? It’s just something that grows in the ground. Grass grows in the ground. I don’t have to have permission to feed them grass.”
Paul said: “I don’t like the idea that we have to ask someone in Washington if we can feed the root of a plant to a chicken or to a cow. I think the things that God gave us here on earth, really the government shouldn’t prevent you from feeding it to your livestock.”
Kelly also asked Paul to consider a federal solution to his troubles obtaining insurance. He said very few companies will insure equipment on hemp farms.
The senator said he plans to take the concerns into consideration, and we could possibly see provisions in the next farm bill.
On the topic of Obamacare repeal, Paul said he was “disappointed that people that promised to vote for repeal got to Washington and went back on their promise.”
Thursday afternoon, Paul touted his association health plans concept, which would group certain occupations together into large numbers. Paul said he believes the large number within the associations (i.e. restaurant workers, retail, barge workers, etc.) will lower prices and ensure coverage for everyone with a job, including those with pre-existing conditions. He said the large number of fast food restaurants in the country would be an advantage for their employees.
He expressed his deeply critical view of the individual marketplace, along with the expensive premiums and numbers of people who’ve opted out of coverage.
The solution his party presented, he said, was a $280 billion subsidy for insurance companies. “I was upset that my party was proposing a solution that really looked a lot like what we have. I was afraid it wouldn’t fix it. So, many said to me if we do nothing they’ll won’t elect us in 2018. I said if you do it and it’s the wrong thing, we won’t get reelected,” Paul said.
He has a grim view of Kentucky’s future if the state has to pay for the more than 400,000 people insured through Medicaid expansion under Obamacare in the future. “I think we should have an honest debate in Kentucky and say: Are you willing to double the state income tax to pay for it?” We have not been able to track down figures that suggest funding Medicaid patients would require a doubling of the state tax rate.
“War should always be the last resort,” Paul said about North Korea’s threat to the U.S. He said thinks reminding the country that the U.S. has no plan to occupy or invade their sovereignty could go a long way. “If I could do anything, I would say ratchet down the rhetoric. Let’s ratchet down the fear on both sides and see if we can get to a peaceful solution,” he said.
“An attack on the United States would basically be the last thing they ever do,” Paul told us.
“You thought the Korean War was bad. This would put it all to shame. I mean, I think even conventional weapons, 1 million people could die in two weeks. Thirteen in South Korea, probably.”