Monday, March 06, 2017

Industrial hemp produced in half of Kentucky's counties, farm interest increasing

There's a growing interest in industrial hemp production across Kentucky, drawing considerable crowd sizes to recent seminars in Christian, Clark and Shelby counties, Ryan Bowman reports The Farmer's Pride. Tom Keene, an agronomy specialist who focuses on hemp and forages for the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, told Bowman, "In 2016, according to Kentucky Department of Agriculture statistics, hemp was produced in 60 of the 120 counties and they pretty much stretched from east to west and north to south."

The meetings were put on by KDA, the Kentucky Hemp Industries Association, Kentucky Hemp Research Foundation and UK Cooperative Extension Service, Bowman writes. "Topics on the agenda included hemp marketing, hemp agronomics, the KDA’s Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program and KDA policies."

Recent seminars in Kentucky on the basics of hemp production drew much interest.
(Farmstead Media photo)
Brent Burchett, director of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s Division of Value-Added Plant Production told Bowman, “We go through KDA’s rules, the hemp program operations, a little bit of the long-term aspects of the industry, some of the uncertainties we’re dealing with and some of the challenges of growing so fast, so quickly."

Prior to World War I, hemp was grown in Kentucky for products like rope and ship sail material, Bowman writes. "Following the second world war, availability of inexpensive synthetic fiber further discouraged the growth of the crop."

This year, KDA approved 12,800 acres for inclusion in the pilot program, up from 4,600 acres in 2016, Bowman writes. "Both Burchett and Keene stress that this is still a heavily regulated and monitored project. Not just anyone can go out and plant a field of hemp."

Industrial hemp is still on the same list as heroin, morphine, cocaine and other illicit drugs as a "one controlled substance," Burchett told Bowman. "It’s a serious undertaking to import seed and check it in with KDA before growers receive it. When planted, producers must submit the exact GPS coordinates for the crop," adding that 12,800 acres will have to be physically visited by KDA staff this year.

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