Kentucky is ramping up its industrial hemp pilot projects this year to build on the research of the past two years, positioning Kentucky to develop a robust research program.
The KDA has authorized planting of nearly 4,500 acres of hemp for pilot projects this year, compared with about 900 acres of hemp production last year and 33 acres in 2014, the first year of pilot projects. Since 2015, the number of university-led research projects has more than doubled, with the scope of research expanding beyond production research into hemp utilization. The KDA is offering multi-year partnerships with processors in order to develop meaningful data on processing and marketing.
The pilot projects are intended to research the feasibility of industrial hemp in Kentucky from seed to market. Projects will study production techniques, seed varieties, processing, and potential products that could be brought to market quickly.
Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles continues to develop collaborative working relationships with the law enforcement community to enable participants in the pilot program to acquire seed and begin work in a timely fashion, and carry out the research in compliance with state and federal law.
Congress authorized universities and state departments of agriculture to manage industrial hemp pilot projects in an amendment inserted in the 2014 federal farm bill by Kentucky’s congressional delegation.
Industrial hemp was produced in Kentucky for some 150 years, and Kentucky led the nation in hemp production for much of that time. In the early 20th century, almost all the hemp produced in the United States was grown in the Bluegrass region of Kentucky. Congress outlawed cannabis production in the 1930s, and while hemp production was legalized in the early 1940s for the war effort, Kentucky’s hemp industry disappeared after the war.
“Hemp is a bridge from Kentucky’s past to our future,” Quarles said. “The Kentucky Department of Agriculture and our partners are committed to building upon the solid foundation of research for a Kentucky hemp industry that will create jobs and new marketing opportunities. Due to the program’s growing popularity, we will continue to enhance and evaluate the policies, procedures, and long-term stability of the program.”
Industrial hemp has thousands of uses in a vast array of industries—health and nutrition, cosmetics, manufacturing, building materials, apparel, animal bedding, biofuels, and many more. Hemp production is legal in every industrialized nation in the world except the United States.