LEXINGTON, KY — Kentucky’s hemp crop is expected to exceed 1,700 acres in 2015, up from just a 33 acres last year, state agriculture officials said this week.
At a news conference Tuesday, state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer announced that 121 participants have been selected to grow hemp in Kentucky this year, including seven universities across the state. There are 36 groups and projects that will grow 1,742 acres this year, Cormer said.
Despite numerous delays caused by the Drug Enforcement Administration last spring, a little over 33 acres of hemp was grown in Kentucky last year, the first legal hemp harvest in the state in decades.
Last year’s successful harvest has attracted two dozen licensed hemp cultivation processors, who are investing in Kentucky, says Comer.
“With their investment, jobs have been created, jobs are going to be created, and they’ve signed contracts with family farmers,” he said. “Hemp equals jobs and true economic growth, which is what we predicted when we launched Senate Bill 50 two years ago.”
Hemp, which once flourished for generations in Kentucky, is seen by some as a viable crop. Comer predicted that within a decade, hemp will once again prevail as a major crop in Kentucky.
“We’ve proven this is a viable industry in this state,” he said. “We’ve proven that our farmers want to grow it. We’ve proven that we can grow it.”
Kentucky has been at the forefront of efforts across the U.S. to revive industrial hemp cultivation, but for now, hemp production is limited to pilot projects due to federal laws and regulations.
Growing hemp without a federal permit was banned in 1970 due to its classification as a controlled substance related to marijuana. Last year, Congress relaxed some of the restrictions surrounding hemp cultivation in the United States, approving a provision in the omnibus federal farm bill that allows for research on industrial hemp by universities and state agriculture departments in states that have approved such programs.
Additional legislation, “Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015,” has been filed this year in the United States Senate. The proposal would fully re-authorize industrial hemp cultivation in the United States. Among the bill’s bipartisan co-sponsors are both Senators representing Kentucky, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) and Senator Rand Paul (R).
Farmers worldwide grow hemp commercially for fiber, seed, and oil for use in a variety of industrial and consumer products, including food and clothing. The United States is the only developed nation that fails to cultivate industrial hemp as an economic crop, according to the Congressional Resource Service.
Over thirty countries produce industrial hemp, including Australia, Austria, Canada, Chile, China, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey and Ukraine.
The world’s leader in hemp production is China.
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