- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:


May 27

The Daily News of Bowling Green on alternative crops:

In 1960, burley tobacco markets were the hub of activity for Kentucky farmers with more than 525 million pounds of the product moving from farmers’ hands to tobacco companies via a government-supported auction system.

With the elimination of government supports and auction houses, that number dropped by 2006 to close to 125 million pounds. In 2014, the most recent year for which numbers are available, Kentucky farmers produced more than 163 million pounds of burley. The National Agriculture Statistics Service said about 13 million pounds of that was produced in the immediate vicinity, with 2.28 million in Warren County.

Even without those large tobacco subsidies, Kentucky’s agriculture cash receipts have mostly steadily grown, topping $6 billion in 2014. That number was expected to decline last year and this year with depressed tobacco markets, the end of the tobacco buyout program and other issues, according to a report from the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.

All that said, Kentucky could benefit from emerging agriculture markets such as canola and hemp and now possibly hops.

Canola is a proven market, and there is a processing plant in nearby Trenton. Oil from canola harvested here is eventually further processed elsewhere to become food-grade oil.

Hemp and hops both have a history with Kentucky, but both have some hurdles to clear before garnering widespread appeal.

Kentucky continues its experiment and research into industrial hemp. The product is mostly produced now in Canada and is used in clothing and foods across the world. The products themselves are sold in Kentucky but the hemp they are comprised of is not yet commercially grown here.

Kentucky began its hemp production in 1775 and went on to be the nation’s leading producer in 1850, having harvested 40,000 tons, according to the state Department of Agriculture. Hemp’s value for its many industrial uses is clear, and it has value to farmers as an alternative crop. We hope the state continues to pursue it for commercial production.

With no real legal hoops to jump through, hops also could be an exciting alternative for farmers. While most people know hops for the fruity like quality it provides craft beer, the plant also has a history of being medicinal.

Hops production was widespread in the state until the early 20th century. Mildew, pests, droughts and fluctuating prices forced hops producers in the eastern U.S. to cease operations or move to the Pacific Northwest, according to the state Department of Agriculture.

Kentucky will use experts at Western Kentucky University and UK to look at the feasibility of the crop for the state. We hope the outcome is favorable for the crop that could help bolster Kentucky’s fledgling craft beer industry.

Both UK and WKU have formidable agriculture programs that provide valuable experience for their students and research for the market. Both schools also are involved in looking at the feasibility of hemp as a Kentucky ag product. We look forward to their findings.




May 31

The Lexington Herald-Leader on transgender restrooms:

When adults pick on a small group of already stigmatized children, it’s ugly. When they do it to stir up fears in hopes of political gain, as Kentucky Republicans are, it’s reprehensible.

Gov. Matt Bevin was right last December when he dismissed worries about “who’s using which bathroom in the public schools” as “nonsense” unworthy of serious consideration.

But, with a chance for his party to capture the House just five months away, Bevin is joining nine states with Republican governors and two with Democratic governors in suing the Obama administration over who’s using which bathroom in the public schools.

Dusting off the playbook from 2004 when the GOP gained by getting amendments banning same-sex marriage on the ballot, Bevin, in announcing the lawsuit last week, got in a partisan dig at Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear for being insufficiently riled up about the potty wars.

Senate President Robert Stivers is calling out Democratic legislators to support the lawsuit. Stivers blasted the federal directive, which was issued in response to a discriminatory North Carolina law, saying, “I firmly believe this should be a local issue and I am prepared to fight for the safety of our students in Kentucky.”

Stivers’ statement has a couple of problems. There’s no factual evidence that anyone’s safety is jeopardized by sharing a bathroom with a transgender individual. About 30 percent of perpetrators of child sexual abuse are members of the victim’s family, so you could argue that going to the bathroom at home poses a much greater risk.

Also, as a longtime leader of a legislative chamber that refused for four years to enact civil protections for victims of dating violence, Stivers has zero standing to talk about young Kentuckians’ safety.

Approximately 1 in 5 female high school students report being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner. For four sessions, the Senate blocked a change in state law opening civil protective orders to people in dating relationships. Key Republicans voiced more concern for the alleged perpetrators than the victims.

Finally, in 2015 Kentucky joined 49 states in offering this protection. The Senate’s long unconcern for real victims seeking protection from real threats makes Stivers’ professed concern for imaginary victims of an imaginary threat suspect, to say the least.

In 2004, the marriage amendments drove up turnout among social conservatives and helped Republicans pick up seven seats in the Kentucky House. The key to George W. Bush’s re-election was carrying Ohio, which also approved a marriage amendment.

The anti-gay amendment passed in all 11 states where it was on the ballot. But consider how deeply attitudes have changed since then. As Americans became better informed and more aware, their natural decency largely ruined gay-bashing as a useful political tool.

The current widespread confusion about transgender people is understandable. We think of “male” and “female” as mutually exclusive, but nature is not that absolute. Increasingly biomedical research is identifying genetic explanations for why some people are miserable living as the sex their anatomy seems to dictate.

Baptist minister Mark Wingfield wrote one of the best explanations of the science and morality. He quotes a pediatrician friend who says, “We must believe that even if some people got a lower dose of a chromosome, or an enzyme, or a hormonal effect, that does not mean that they got a lower dose of God’s image.”

Let’s hope the ugly politics of this moment eventually ushers in greater understanding and compassion.




May 27

The Kentucky New Era on a military census:

A 1 percent population slide for both Hopkinsville and Christian County, according to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau estimate, might not look like much on paper. From 2014 to 2015, Hopkinsville’s population was down by 294 - putting the city’s most recent estimate at 32,205. The county lost 656 with the new estimate at 73,309.

But for many reasons, the local drop is significant.

A community that’s declining in population will have a harder time recruiting new business, especially chain stores and restaurants. A population decline can also negatively impact funding for state and federal programs. And there’s the issue of pride. Hopkinsville dropped from seventh to ninth largest cities. That’s not the direction for progress.

As local leaders have preached for many years, Hopkinsville and Christian County must be aware of census methods that fail to count some Fort Campbell soldiers who have established homes in the community.

We knew this in 2010, during the last big census count, but issues related to military installations still have not been resolved.

There is a way to address the impact of military families the census, and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul recently introduced legislation that would help civilian communities surrounding Fort Campbell. We support it.

Paul announced this week that he introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. It would require the Census Bureau to count all deployed service members as residents in the area they lived before being deployed.

In 2010, the Census Bureau counted service members as residents of the home of record, which is the address they provided at enlistment.

There are a couple of problems with this. First, many soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen never get counted. Only 59 percent of Department of

Defense records had a home of record when the 2010 Census was conducted, Paul noted in a news release.

The other problem stems from a failure to account for career service members who establish roots in civilian communities surrounding military installations. The Army, for example, does not transfer soldiers as frequently from post to post as it once did. Rather than moving every two years, many soldiers stay four or five years, or longer, at one installation.

Paul’s amendment makes sense, and it would benefit Hopkinsville and Christian County. It would not have any adverse effect on the military. It’s only for census purposes and would not change any individual soldier’s tax records or voting qualifications.

This remedy is long overdue. It would improve the accuracy of the census and it would give communities like Hopkinsville, Oak Grove and Clarksville the credit they deserve for the military families that reside in them.



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