Kentucky’s hemp program is just about open for business.
The state said that it will begin accepting applications for growers and processors wishing to receive a license to participate in the program beginning in mid-November.
According to the Associated Press, Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said the application period for growers and processors will both begin on November 15 and run to March 15 the following year, with the state aiming to ultimately move toward a year-round application process.
The passage of the 2018 Farm Bill in Congress legalized industrialized hemp on the federal level, clearing the way for states like Kentucky to cultivate a crop that has become even more in demand thanks to the popularity of CBD-based products. The Farm Bill removed industrial hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, and gave the bulk of regulatory authority to the states.
Kentucky was a national leader in hemp production more than a century ago, and the state is eager to reach that status again, particularly given the ongoing decline of tobacco use in the United States. The state boasts that it was the first state to file a plan for industrial hemp, claiming that Quarles submitted it to the U.S. Department of Agriculture “minutes” after passage of the Farm Bill. It’s also not a coincidence that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who hails from Kentucky, was among those pushing for that provision in the Farm Bill.
“By removing hemp from the federal list of controlled substances, farmers can explore the bright future of this versatile crop, found in everything from a coffee mug to your car dashboard,” McConnell said in a statement after the Farm Bill’s passage. “Kentucky’s farmers are prepared to continue leading the nation when it comes to hemp and its potential to benefit our farm economy, and I’m hopeful that this exciting commodity can be as big of a part of our agricultural future as it has been in our past.”
In January, Quarles announced that the state had greenlit 1,035 applications to cultivate up to 42,086 acres of industrial hemp in 2019, as well as 2.9 million square feet of greenhouse space for hemp cultivation. That’s a considerable uptick from 2018, when 210 growers were authorized by the state to plant up to 16,100 acres of industrial hemp and planted more than 6,700 acres.
“The numbers tell you what you need to know about the excitement about hemp in Kentucky,” Quarles said at the time. “The growth in the number of approved acres from 16,000 last year to 42,000 this year shows that Kentucky is rapidly becoming the epicenter of the hemp industry in the United States. With the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, we believe Kentucky is ready to lead as the nation begins the process of transitioning to commercialization of a crop that connects our past to our future.”