Goal to make Kentucky ‘epicenter’ of U.S. Hemp, state official says

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Local agriculture officials in Kentucky, USA say the state is well-positioned to be a national leader in hemp farming and production after enactment of the U.S. 2018 Farm Bill Thursday.

“We are eager to take the next step toward solidifying Kentucky’s position as the epicenter of industrial hemp production and processing in the United States,” the state’s Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said after submitting Kentucky’s hemp plan to federal officials at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

First state to submit rules

Kentucky was the first state to put its regulatory framework before the USDA following passage and signing of the Farm Bill. The legislation removed industrial hemp from the federal Controlled Substances Act, giving hemp growers access to USDA programs such as crop insurance.

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles
Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles

“Kentucky’s regulatory framework perfectly aligns with the requirements spelled out in the Farm Bill,” Quarles said. Kentucky is among several states in the USA whose farming fortunes have suffered with the decline of tobacco farming, and who see hemp as a replacement crop of much greater value.

The Farm Bill assigns regulatory authority of industrial hemp to individual states but sets minimum federal requirements that state regulations must meet. Individuals and businesses must be licensed by the state Department of Agriculture to grow or process industrial hemp in Kentucky.

1,000 applications for 2019

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) said it has received more than 1,000 applications to participate in the state’s industrial hemp research pilot program in 2019.

Participants in the 2018 program grew more than 6,700 acres (2,710 hectares) of hemp, more than double the acreage grown in 2017.

Of 225 farmers who received approval to grow hemp in Kentucky last year, 185 intended to harvest for floral material, according to the KDA.

Kentucky licensed processors paid Kentucky growers $7.5 million for harvested hemp in 2017 and reported $25.6 million in capital improvements and investments, and $16.7 million in gross product sales.

Pilot program guidelines

Under Kentucky’s industrial hemp research pilot program, the KDA works closely with state and local law enforcement officers and provides GPS coordinates of approved industrial hemp fields, processing, and storage sites to law enforcement before any hemp is planted. Participants also must pass background checks and let program staff and police agencies inspect any premises where hemp or hemp products are being grown, handled, stored, or processed.

Helps grain & dairy farmers

“The farm bill maintains and enhances important protections for grain and dairy farmers who have endured low commodity prices for the past five years,” Quarles said. It also provides funding for a Market Access Program, which helps farmers and agribusinesses sell American products abroad, as well as animal health programs to protect livestock from disease.

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