Kentucky nearly triples industrial hemp goals

Kentuckians could see the production of nearly 13,000 acres of industrial hemp this year, thanks to the recent approval of such growth by the state's agriculture department.

Although industrial hemp is still labeled a controlled substance, more than 200 Kentucky growers are expected to plant up to 12,800 acres as part of a pilot research program. The area is almost three times that approved in 2016.

“Our strategy is to use KDA’s research pilot program to encourage the industrial hemp industry to expand and prosper in Kentucky,” Kentucky Agricultural Commissioner Ryan Quarles said. “By nearly tripling hemp acreage in 2017 and attracting more processors to the state, we are significantly growing opportunities for Kentucky farmers.”

The state also approved more than 525,000 square feet of greenhouse space for indoor growers.

Working within the limits of the law, and cooperating with law enforcement, are top priorities, Quarles said.

KDA’s industrial hemp research pilot program evaluated applications and determined if those reapplying had complied with the guidelines from KDA, the Kentucky State police and other law enforcement agencies.

GPS coordinates of approved sites will be provided to law enforcement agencies before any planting takes place. The coordinates are also to be submitted with the industrial hemp growing application. Growers undergo background checks and must allow program staff as well as law enforcement officials to search any locations where hemp or hemp products are grown, handled, stored or processed.

“Although it is not clear when Congress might act to remove industrial hemp from the list of controlled substances, my strategic objective is to position the commonwealth’s growers and processors to ultimately prevail as national leaders in industrial hemp production,” Quarles said.

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Kentucky Department of Agriculture

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