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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A prize ham was auctioned off for $300,000 Thursday morning at the Kentucky State Fair.
Dr. Mark Lynn and Associates submitted the winning bid at the Grand Champion Country Ham at the 49th annual Kentucky Country Ham Breakfast.
The annual tradition for local dignitaries and politicians. Kentucky Farm Bureau President Mark Haney will emcee the event that features speakers Governor Steve Beshear, Senator Mitch McConnell, Senator Rand Paul, Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, and other local, state and national elected officials.
The event features a country style breakfast and the charity auction of the state's 2012 Grand champion country ham.
At the first ham auction in 1964, the winning bid was a respectable $124. Last year's winning bid of $600,000 was from Republic Bank CEO Steve Trager.
The annual auction has helped the Kentucky Farm Bureau raise more than $6 million for local charities.
Dan Smaldone with the Kentucky Farm Bureau told us how it all started.
"Back in 1964, a group of guys got together and said we need to do something to really celebrate agriculture in a big way at the state fair. So they hosted a breakfast, they talked about agriculture and celebrated all the hard working men and women across the state who put in an honest day's work on the farm every day and it culminated in this event."
Over the years, the country ham auction has become the centerpiece of the event, with local businessmen bidding on it to raise money for local charities.
Although the ham auction has raised as much a $1.6 million for charity, Smaldone says they try not to hope for a specific dollar amount.
"Because it's for charity, we typically don't set a target for that," Smaldone said. "Whatever we get is obviously beneficial to the community and to those who are going to be the recipients of that charity."
Politics State and local officials also planned to use this year's ham breakfast to talk about the benefits of industrial hemp, and Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer fully supports the efforts to relax federal regulations, and he says Senator Rand Paul is on board as well.
"We think this could create jobs in Kentucky, in addition to helping our farmers have an alternative crop to tobacco," Comer said. "I believe, as does Senator Paul, that industrial hemp can be that alternative to tobacco, and we're going to talk about it here today.
Comer says hemp "has no drug effect. This is something that would grow well and has a lot of uses, and I believe it would revive the manufacturing base here in Kentucky, so it's a win-win situation."
We asked Senator Paul for his views on industrial hemp production in Kentucky, and you could say he was wearing his views on his sleeve.
"I'm wearing my hemp shirt today -- made out of hemp -- and anything we can do to help farmers have a new product I think would be a good idea for Kentucky," Paul said.
Paul says Kentucky would be among the first state to sanction hemp production.
"Most other countries have already legalized industrial hemp," Paul said. "So we're at a disadvantage in that other countries are making textiles, paper and biofuels out of hemp. We're one of the only industrial countries not doing it. We would be one of the first states to do it, and so we'd like to be the first."
As for the upcoming election, Paul says he expects a big turnout from the Tea Party, and says if Mitt Romney is elected he should make good on his promise to appeal the Affordable Healthcare Act.
"He's said on day one he'll give all 50 states a waiver to Obamacare, and I think that would be good," Paul said. We can't afford it. The state governments can't afford it either. It's going to bankrupt state governments, also, because of all of the increases in Medicaid that's going to occur."
Paul says he believes Obamacare is unconstitutional despite the Supreme Court's recent ruling. He says it all boils down to fundamental differences in the parties that have existed since our country was founded.
"This debate has been going on for a long time in our country," Paul said. "We've debated over whether our country should be limited by the enumerated powers of the constitution or whether the government should just do whatever the majority wants.
"I still believe government should be limited by the constitution," Paul said. "And there's a practical reason for believing this: we're out of money. We're a trillion dollars short every year because we do everything. So we should have some limits on what the federal government can do."
Kentucky Congressman John Yarmuth, D-Ky. also attended the Thursday's breakfast -- and said he did not expect to be talking about industrial hemp.
"Things move very quickly in today's political theater, and we didn't think we were going to be talking about rape either this week.
"I appreciate Senator Paul's initiative in this area, but again I don't think that's the top priority of most Kentuckians or Americans," Yarmuth said.
"I think he's absolutely right. I think it is a great opportunity for Kentucky. I think the restrictions should be lifted. I've always felt this way. I think he's right -- it's just kind of interesting with the fiscal cliff looming and the whole issue of deficits and tax cuts and farm bills and other things, this is probably not the perfect time to bring it up."
As for healthcare, Yarmuth says even if Romney wins he doesn't believe attempts to repeal the healthcare legislation.
"No, I don't think they're going to get the Affordable Care Act repealed," Yarmuth said. "I think millions of Americans have already seen the benefits of it. Seniors have already received the benefits of it."
Yarmuth says tens of thousands of senior citizens are benefiting from Obamacare as well as "tens of thousands of young people now on their parents' insurance policies up until age 26."
According to Yarmuth, that means millions of families with chronic conditions now know "that their family will never have to worry about those children or young adults being insured again because insurance companies won't be able to reject them because of a pre-exiting condition. That's a huge constituency for the protections and benefits that are in this bill, so I don't worry about it being repealed."
This year more than 5,400 eggs, 1,600 half-pints of milk, 30 gallons of sorghum, 20 gallons of honey, 6,400 oranges and 450 pounds of country ham were part of the breakfast that takes about 2-1/2 days to prepare.