FRANKFORT — The Kentucky Department of Agriculture has approved 225 applications from growers to cultivate up to 12,018 acres of industrial hemp for research purposes in 2018. More than 681,000 square feet of greenhouse space were approved for indoor growers in 2018.
“Kentucky continues to lead on industrial hemp research, exploring every aspect of this versatile crop,” Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said. “Because of the research conducted by our growers, processors, and universities, I am more optimistic than ever that we can put industrial hemp on a path to widespread commercialization once Congress removes it from the federal list of controlled substances.”
The KDA received a total of 257 applications – 243 grower applications and 14 processor/handler applications. Additionally, 43 participants renewed multi-year processor licenses. Applicants were asked to identify which harvestable component of the plant would be the focus of their research (floral material, grain, or fiber); some applicants selected more than one component. As a result, the number of approved applicants focusing on the different components of the plant are as follows: 185 for floral material, 103 for grain or seeds and 66 for fiber.
In 2017, 209 growers were approved to plant up to 12,800 acres of industrial hemp. In 2017, program participants planted the highest number of acres on record at more than 3,200 acres. The 2017 planting acreage was up from 2,350 acres in 2016, 922 acres in 2015, and 33 acres in 2014.
The KDA continues to work closely with state and local law enforcement officers. Just like last year, the KDA will provide GPS coordinates of approved industrial hemp planting sites to law enforcement agencies before any hemp is planted. GPS coordinates were required to be submitted on the application. Participants also must pass background checks and consent to allow program staff and law enforcement officers to inspect any premises where hemp or hemp products are being grown, handled, stored, or processed.
“Here in Kentucky, we have worked hard with the law enforcement community to prove we can have an industrial hemp research pilot program that is consistent with the law,” Commissioner Quarles said. “I am proud of the relationship we have built.”
Staff with the KDA’s industrial hemp research pilot program evaluated the applications and considered whether returning applicants had complied with instructions from KDA, Kentucky State Police, and local law enforcement. To promote transparency and ensure a fair playing field, KDA relied on objective criteria provided in draft administrative regulations to evaluate applications.
For the second time in program history, the KDA is offering 2018 program applicants who were initially denied entrance into the industrial hemp research pilot program an opportunity to make their case to a three-person administrative panel. Appeals hearings will be held in early February.
The KDA operates its program under the authority of Section 7606 of the 2014 federal farm bill, now 7 U.S.C. § 5940, that permits industrial hemp pilot programs in states where hemp production is permitted by state law. Mandatory orientations for all approved applicants will be held between Feb. 20 and March 2. Licenses will be issued in March following orientation. The 2017 grower licenses are active until March 31.
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