by James R. Comer
Frankfort, Ky. —
People are fed up with old school partisan politics. They want leadership that achieves results.
In a speech I gave in Somerset recently, I tried to make clear that I intend to act independently of party or faction and do the best job I can for the people of Kentucky. I spoke of the accomplishments of the Department of Agriculture, which I am honored to share here, and a new vision for Kentucky’s future. The response to the speech has been overwhelmingly positive.
My first act after taking the oath of office in January 2012 was to ask the state auditor’s office — led by a Democrat — to conduct a wide-ranging audit of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and the previous administration of Richie Farmer, a Republican. A select few were uncomfortable with this decision. But with your support and after a tough transition, we have made the department efficient, transparent, accountable, and responsive to the needs of Kentuckians.
I pushed for legislation to make industrial hemp production legal in Kentucky. Again, a select few were uncomfortable with this bold new idea. I was even told our bill had no shot to get a hearing, let alone pass the legislature. But with your grassroots support and the much-appreciated help of both Republicans and Democrats, the bill passed by an unprecedented margin.
My staff and I launched Homegrown by Heroes, Jobs for Vets, Udderly Kentucky, Farm to Campus, and the Farm to School Junior Chef competition to expand Kentucky Proud and raise awareness of the fresh, nutritious foods produced right here in Kentucky. Homegrown by Heroes recently became a national brand that will serve thousands of military veterans in all 50 states.
When we found the department’s fuel testing laboratory was hemorrhaging $900,000 per year, we closed the laboratory and privatized the state’s fuel testing, saving the taxpayers nearly $600,000 per year. Yet again, a few naysayers opined that we might “take a bath” when we announced our intention to auction the lab’s equipment. But we shocked Frankfort insiders when we recouped every dime of the taxpayers’ money, and in some cases, a bit more. I was so proud to stand beside U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and Democratic Kentucky Treasurer Todd Hollenbach as I returned the $1.65 million earmark for the lab back to the state Treasury. I then went before the legislature and announced that the department would request $500,000 less this budget cycle.
I visited all 120 Kentucky counties in 2012, and I’m on track to do so again this year. In the months to come, I plan to announce more initiatives to expand Kentucky Proud and welcome more colleges and universities into the Farm to Campus program. I will continue to encourage local leaders and businesses to pursue economic development opportunities in agriculture for their communities, and I will support legislation that will challenge private business to help solve public problems. And I will work across party lines to achieve results. And again, I’m sure a few people will be uncomfortable.
But this is what good government looks like. This is what you’ve told me you want — public officials who are not beholden to party bosses or special interests but who put the needs of the people first. I am going to continue to do what is best for Kentucky and offer bold new ideas, regardless of the politics of the day. Make no mistake…that’s going to make some people uncomfortable, and I’m okay with that. Because nothing worth fighting for was ever achieved without a bit of a fight.