Expects 100 processors and 40,000 acres
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 28, 2015) — In the near future industrial hemp will cover tens of thousands of acres in Kentucky and generate thousands of in-state jobs, Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said today at the Hemp Industries Association Conference in Lexington. The conference continues Tuesday.
“I think we’re going to go from 1,700 acres to 10,000 acres to 20,000 acres to 40,000 acres,” Comer said. “This is going to be a big crop in the state of Kentucky. We’re going to go from 24 processors to hopefully 100 processors. We’re going to be making things that range from parts in the automotive industry to parts in the construction industry to pharmaceuticals. [Kentucky] is going to be the epicenter of industrial hemp production in America.”
The Kentucky Department of Agriculture approved 121 industrial hemp pilot projects submitted by 24 processors, seven universities and numerous individual growers totaling more than 1,700 acres of intended plantings for 2015.
Comer said Kentucky universities are recruiting students from other states and countries because they want to research hemp.
Industrial hemp still encounters obstacles from federal and state government, he said. “We’re going to keep working to try to have open dialogue with these government bureaucracies and hope that we can continue to make progress and continue to grow the industry.”
The Kentucky Department of Agriculture will post the application for 2016 industrial hemp pilot projects in Kentucky on its website at www.kyagr.com/hemp in October.
The industrial hemp pilot projects are conducted under a provision of the 2014 farm bill that authorizes projects in states such as Kentucky where hemp production is legal under state law. The Kentucky General Assembly in 2013 passed a state law creating a regulatory framework for hemp production in Kentucky as the result of Comer’s bipartisan campaign in support of the legislation. Upon taking office in January 2012, Comer revived the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission after a 10-year hiatus and served as its first chairman.
Kentucky’s first hemp crop was grown in 1775, and Kentucky went on to become the nation’s leading hemp-producing state in the mid-19th century with peak production of 40,000 tons in 1850. U.S. hemp production declined after the Civil War, and for several decades almost all of the nation’s hemp was grown in the Bluegrass region of Kentucky. Federal legislation passed in 1938 outlawed production of cannabis, including hemp, in the U.S. Hemp production in Kentucky and the U.S. ramped up during World War II as part of the war effort but fell again after the war and ended with the demise of a small hemp fiber industry in Wisconsin in 1958.