Kentucky's first experimental hemp crop has grown with the arrival of another shipment of imported seeds that immediately went into the ground.
The state's agriculture department says nearly 950 pounds of Canadian seeds cleared customs without any legal drama. An earlier shipment from Italy was detained for a time by customs officials in Louisville, setting off a legal fight between the state agency and the federal government.
Adam Watson, the agriculture department's hemp coordinator, said the Canadian seeds were planted last week. He said seeds put into the soil in late May have already sprouted into leafy plants that are six feet high or taller.
Test plots across the state will help researchers and farmers determine the crop's potential in Kentucky.
Kentucky’s burgeoning hemp industry may receive a shot in the arm later this year if the state changes a loan program for agricultural processors.
Roger Thomas is the executive director of the Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy. He says a loan program designed to cover the costs of processing other agricultural products could apply to hemp processing once state universities have determined which hemp products are best suited for Kentucky.
“If the research proves that it’s a viable crop for Kentucky farmers, then perhaps later this year the Ag Development Board might look at tweaking some guidelines to allow the County Agricultural Investment Program, the county funds, to be accessed for that purpose.”
State agriculture experts predict that the cost of creating infrastructure for a new hemp industry will affect how successful it can become.
Hemp has turned into a legitimate test crop in Kentucky after a legal battle over imported seeds. Researchers are planting seeds to start gauging the potential for the non-intoxicating cousin of marijuana.
University of Kentucky agronomy researchers planted a small plot Tuesday at their Spindletop Farm near the Lexington campus. Dr. David Williams says 13 varieties of hemp were planted and with good weather and enough rainfall, the crop should be harvested in October. Factors Williams and others will look for after treating all types of hemp in the trial the same will include whether one yields more quantity than another and how qualities like the plants' fibers or seeds compare.
The seeds were part of a shipment released after a legal standoff between Kentucky's Agriculture Department and the federal government.
Another test hemp plot affiliated with Murray State University has also been planted.
A group of military veteran farmers will plant one of Kentucky's first hemp crops in decades this week.
The Growing Warriors group had planned to plant hemp seeds last week. After 250 pounds of imported seeds were held in customs by the DEA, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture sued the federal government, and withdrew its support of the Warriors’ planting until the matter could be resolved.
On Friday, federal Judge John Heyburn ruled that the state must apply for a permit to lawfully obtain the seeds, and paved the way for Growing Warriors to obtain individual planting permits.
“I think it’s a victory for everybody," says Michael Lewis, an Army veteran and Rockcastle County farmer who will be among those growing hemp.
Lewis says he plans to obtain a permit early this week to plant his first hemp crop.
Kentucky’s Agriculture Commissioner says he’s looking forward to a court hearing Friday over his department’s lawsuit against the federal government.
James Comer this week sued three government agencies—the U.S. Justice Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection--as well as U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, over a 250 pound shipment of hemp seeds that is being held by federal customs officials in Louisville.
Language in the latest federal Farm Bill allows certain states that have adopted a regulatory framework to plant hemp for the first time in decades, and Kentucky passed a law allowing pilot hemp planting projects run by state-funded universities.
But Comer says federal agents in Louisville have continued to come up with reasons why the latest hemp shipment must be held. The Commissioner says a hearing is set for 1 p.m. eastern time Friday before a federal judge in Louisville.
“We believe that it’s a good sign, that we’re going to be in front of a federal judge this soon after filing a motion," the Monroe County native told WKU Public Radio. "So, hopefully we can get the seeds, because these seeds are going to the University of Kentucky. It’s not like these seeds are going to some shady, upstart business somewhere.”
Kentucky's first legal planting of hemp seeds in decades is being postponed.
Officials from the Kentucky Agriculture Department, Kentucky State University, and pro-hemp groups were scheduled to plant hemp seeds Friday in Rockcastle County as part of a pilot project following the recent relaxing of state and federal rules regarding the crop.
But Agriculture Commissioner James Comer announced Thursday that the event has been postponed following a standoff between his department and federal officials over a detained shipment containing 250 pounds of hemp seeds.
The Agriculture Department filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the federal government, in an effort to get the shipment released by customs officials in Louisville.
Kentucky lawmakers passed a law allowing hemp to be planted as part of university-based research projects. Hemp advocates say the crop's fiber and oilseed can be used to make rope, paper, bio-fuels, cosmetics, and healthy foods.
In 1970, the federal government placed hemp on the list of Schedule One drugs, making it illegal to grow.
A shipment of hemp seeds from Italy has made it to Kentucky, but there’s a problem.
Customs officials in Louisville have so far refused to release the 250 pound shipment to the state Agriculture Department.
While Kentucky law was recently changed to allow the growing of hemp for university-run research projects, federal customs officials are still leery of signing off on the seed shipments. State officials say the confusion is holding up hemp seeds from getting to project locations in the commonwealth.
“I spoke with a customs official in Chicago, and once I advised her of what the law is, and what we’re doing at the Department of Agriculture, customs in Chicago released the seeds to Louisville, and now it’s just a question of getting everyone on the same page,” said Holly Harris VonLuehrte, chief of staff at the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.
VonLuehrte told WKU Public Radio Thursday afternoon that she thinks customs officials will sign off on the hemp seeds within “the next 24 hours.”
Kentucky's first legal hemp seeds almost didn't make it to the state. Agriculture Commissioner James Comer says the first batch of industrial hemp seeds was being held by customs officials in Chicago who were unaware of Kentucky's new hemp law.
Comer said the process to get them released was stressful but says federal officials finally agreed to forward them to his office. He says once they arrive, they'll be sent to the state's six research schools to be planted by the first week of June.
Comer says his office paid for the seeds using money donated from a private source.
Six universities in Kentucky may now begin growing legal hemp this year. Agriculture Commissioner James Comer told Kentucky Public Radio his office has received the go-ahead from the Attorney General's office to begin pilot projects with the plant.
Those projects were made possible by last year's state legislation providing a regulatory framework and a provision inserted in a recent federal farm bill. Comer says his office will begin immediately to finalize regulations concerning the growth and production of hemp.