Comer: Kentucky Hemp Stirring Corporate Interest

Aug 18, 2014

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer thinks Kentucky-grown hemp is on its way to becoming a hot commodity. 

From clothing manufacturers to automotive suppliers, U.S. companies currently import hemp from other countries where it is legal to grow the crop.  Companies are interested to see if Kentucky could become a domestic source of hemp.

"The universities and the agriculture department are getting calls almost on a daily basis from different companies, some are publicly traded, others are very successful private companies, that want to process hemp," Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer told WKU Public Radio.  "There are a lot of companies in the U.S. that purchase hemp produced and processed in Canada and China, so the interest is there," he added.

According to Comer, the outdoor clothing retailer Patagonia has partnered with the Growing Warriors Project, a program working with veterans and their families to grow and market naturally grown food, to develop a hemp clothing line.

Hemp's financial impact remains to be seen.  A 2013 report from the University of Kentucky suggested that only a few dozen jobs would be created and that hemp would amount to less than one percent of Kentucky’s farm cash receipts.

Meanwhile, Comer says many of Kentucky’s hemp crops that were planted earlier this year for research purposes are currently being harvested.  He says the hemp has grown well in all but one of the nine plots located around the state.

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture hopes to announce results of the research by the end of the year.