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State Approves 256 Acres for Hemp in West Kentucky

Barbetorte, Wikimedia Commons

Kentucky farmers are planting more than 1,700 acres of hemp  as part of the second year of the state’s industrial hemp research program, with 256 of those acres in west Kentucky.

State Kentucky Industrial Hemp Coordinator Adam Watson said this year there are 1,742 acres approved for hemp, up from 33 acres last year. Watson said the significant increase in acreage was possible because of new processors coming to the table.

“A lot of processors have been eyeing hemp for a long time. But of course the federal status basically prevented anyone from being able to work with it. So it’s something that they’ve been on the sidelines for a while. And when Kentucky was able to give them a home and give them the ability to move forward with their work, they were very eager to work with us,” Watson said.

Watson said 9 western counties have acres approved for industrial hemp. He said hemp would fit well in western Kentucky’s large scale farming of agronomic crops, but wouldn’t replace staples like corn or soy any time soon.

Bill Clift of Caldwell County is planting 30 acres on his farm. Clift said he was interested growing hemp because of the possibility of getting in on the ground floor of a new and prosperous industry.

Clift wanted to have planted the hemp already but is still waiting for the seed to make it through all the regulatory checkpoints to his farm.

“The hurdles that we have to jump through with it to be able to grow it are tremendous. And, as you can imagine, dealing with a bunch of bureaucracy and regulatory hurdles for most people is a nightmare,” Clift said.

Clift said adding another crop to his rotation can be beneficial.

“Of course we hope it allows us to diversify. It just gives us another weapon in our arsenal to be able to survive in agriculture and even prosper,” Clift said.

Watson said the federal government will need to legalize industrial hemp before the crop can make it out of the research stage and become an established industry in the state. He says the purpose of the pilot program in Kentucky and other states is to demonstrate the need for change in federal laws regarding industrial hemp.

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