Commissioner Quarles hails industrial hemp research pilot program’s multi-million-dollar economic impact

Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles
Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles

LEXINGTON (April 3, 2018) — Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles announced today at the annual conference of the Kentucky Hemp Industries Association (KYHIA) that preliminary analysis of the 2017 Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program reveals a multi-million-dollar economic impact for the state.

According to early analysis of the 2017 processor production reports, Kentucky licensed processors paid Kentucky growers $7.5 million for harvested hemp. Additionally, Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program processor licensees reported $25.6 million in capital improvements and investments and $16.7 million in gross product sales.

“When I became Commissioner of Agriculture, I wanted to make Kentucky a national leader in industrial hemp research,” Commissioner Ryan Quarles said. “These numbers demonstrate the economic potential of this emerging industry right here in Kentucky. It is time to remove industrial hemp from the list of controlled substances for our farmers and processors, so we can remove uncertainty from this versatile crop.”

In 2017, 198 growers planted the highest number of acres on record at more than 3,271 acres. The 2017 planting acreage was up from 2,350 acres in 2016, 922 acres in 2015, and 33 acres in 2014.

The KDA works closely with state and local law enforcement officers and provides GPS coordinates of approved industrial hemp planting, processing, and storage sites to law enforcement before any hemp is planted. Participants also must pass background checks and consent to allow program staff and law enforcement officers to inspect any premises where hemp or hemp products are being grown, handled, stored, or processed.

“Last week I was proud to announce alongside United States Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell the impending introduction of bipartisan legislation to legalize hemp as an agricultural commodity,” said Commissioner Quarles. “Leader McConnell’s impending legislation represents the best chance to place our Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program on the path to commercialization.”

The KDA operates its program under the authority of Section 7606 of the 2014 federal farm bill, now 7 U.S.C. § 5940, that permits industrial hemp pilot programs in states where hemp production is permitted by state law.

Commissioner Quarles successfully advocated for legislation adopted in the 2017 session of the Kentucky General Assembly that more closely aligned Kentucky’s program with federal law and added several significant law enforcement safeguards