The ground may be frozen now, but later this year, hemp plants will spring up on thousands of acres of land in Kentucky. A record number of growers have been approved to cultivate industrial hemp this year.
The Kentucky Department of Agriculture has approved 209 applications from growers who will plant 12,800 acres of hemp for research purposes. More than 23-hundred acres was cultivated in 2016.
“By nearly tripling hemp acreage in 2017 and attracting more processors to the state, we are significantly growing opportunities for Kentucky farmers,” Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said in a news release.
Besides individual growers, five universities, including WKU, will grow and research the crop. The state has also approved 40 hemp processors. The recent decline in commodity prices is believed to be a factor behind increased interest in hemp production.
Kentucky’s industrial hemp program was approved in the 2014 federal farm bill that permits pilot programs in states where hemp production is allowed by state law.
Until Congress removes industrial hemp from the list of controlled substances, the state plans to keep positioning itself as a leader in hemp production.