Hemp

High Hopes For Hemp

Jun 27, 2016
Nicole Erwin, Ohio Valley ReSource

Farmers throughout the Ohio Valley want to revive a crop that was once a staple in the region: hemp. After a ban that lasted more than half a century, the 2014 Farm Bill allowed states to grow hemp in research programs. Growers and processors in Kentucky are aggressively putting that research program to work in hopes of winning a share of the booming market for hemp products. 

Kentucky Hemp Works via Facebook

A western Kentucky business is bringing industrial hemp to market. Kentucky Hemp Works has opened a processing facility in Christian County.

Whitney Jones, WKMS

Kentucky’s industrial hemp market is growing as the state’s pilot program continues into its third year. As of February, there were 36 hemp processors in the state. That number is up 10 from last year.

Whitney Jones / WKMS

Half of Tennessee farmers who participated in the state’s return to industrial hemp farming have yet to apply for a permit to grow the highly regulated seed again. 

In 2015, approximately 50 farmers signed up to grow the crop. With two weeks left to apply, WBIR-TV reports that only 25 farmers have applied.  

Cocke County farmer Chuck Mason says he thought the crop would be a "gold mine," but when seeds arrived more than a month late due to customs delays, the crop turned into a bust. Mason says he will return to growing hay this year.

Ryan Quarles / Facebook

Kentucky’s new agriculture commissioner says he will pick up where his predecessor left off when it comes to industrial hemp. 

Ryan Quarles was in Bowling Green Friday for the Kentucky Commodity Conference. 

Newsweek reporter Jessica Firger recently wrote a story in which she described the challenges for Kentucky farmers growing the plant.

On Tuesday, Firger discussed with Kentucky Public Radio how the state’s fledgling hemp industry is providing an alternative for down-and-out tobacco farmers in the state.

Barbetorte, Wikimedia Commons

Kentucky farmers are planting more than 1,700 acres of hemp  as part of the second year of the state’s industrial hemp research program, with 256 of those acres in west Kentucky.

D-Kuru, Wikimedia Commons

The second year of Kentucky's research hemp production is underway. 

The planting season officially kicked off Thursday at the University of Kentucky demonstration site.  Statewide, about a thousand acres of hemp will be planted, compared to 33 acres last season.  

Whitney Jones, WKMS

Around 120 Kentucky farmers will grow hemp this year as the state enters its second of five years of hemp research and testing as allowed under the Farm Bill.

Adam Watson is the industrial hemp program coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. He says though growing hemp commercially isn’t legal yet, there’s growing interest in the crop.

The application window is now open for Kentucky farmers and processors who want to grow hemp for research in 2015. 

Several Kentucky universities, including WKU, grew hemp this year for the first time in decades.  The application deadline for the next round  is January 1.

The first round of pilot projects yielded a lot of data about production methods, seed varieties, and processing techniques. 

"This past year we were as far west as Murray and as far east as Bath County.  We'd like to see that continuation or even expansion on either end," said Adam Watson, Industrial Hemp Program Coordinator in the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.  "Definitely, we have different growing environments in Kentucky."

Applications are available on the Kentucky Department of Agriculture's website at www.kyagr.com/hemp.  Applicants who are selected will undergo background checks and site visits.

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