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Kentucky Ag Commissioner Reviewing Federal Hemp Opinion

Nicole Erwin, WKMS

A federal opinion on industrial hemp research programs may provide new opportunities in Kentucky.  

The report, called a Statement of Principles on Industrial Hemp, released by the United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration and Drug Enforcement Administration holds no actual legal standing but does attempt to offer some clarity on how Federal laws will be applied to hemp research production.

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture is reviewing the opinion to determine how significant an impact the notice could have on the industry.

In the meantime, Ag Commissioner Ryan Quarles said some progress is clear, like the USDA allowing Organic Certification of the crop and access to specialty crop grant funding.

“There are some areas that may be problematic, including the definition of what the actual definition of what industrial hemp is,” said Quarles.

According to the Commissioner, 60 percent of the state’s hemp programs are invested in hemp oil production, or CBD. After the first reading of the statement, the KDA is unclear how the federal organizations view this area of research.

“We are seeking clarification about how CBD production fits into the most recent statement of principle... a lot of the processors that have come to Kentucky have invested resources and have hired Kentuckians in part of this process, so we want to make sure that they are recognized as part of the industrial hemp research program,” said Quarles.

In addition to the historic use of industrial hemp for fiber and seed purposes, Quarles said the KDA and its participants want to make sure “that those in Washington realize that the entire plant should be researched.”

The USDA guaranteeing organic certification is of particular interest to many of the growers.

“Right now with the research phase with the industrial hemp pilot program there is no pesticide use allowed. We enforce this rule to ensure that no off-label chemicals are put on our industrial hemp plants; however, we have had conversations with various agribusiness who supply chemicals to develop recommendations of possible pesticides that could potentially be approved for labeled use,” said Quarles.

The method of pesticide extraction currently is by hand. Quarles says the University of Kentucky is already doing pesticide research for hemp production and will “help lead the way towards on-label use.”

It has been a “wet season” for hemp which Quarles says will produce a lot of “variance among the crops” and in research that is good.

A response to the U-S Secretary of Agriculture regarding the Statement of Principles will follow a thorough evaluation of the notice.

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