Hemp

Lisa Autry

The application window is now open for Kentucky farmers and processors who want to grow hemp for research in 2015. 

Several Kentucky universities, including WKU, grew hemp this year for the first time in decades.  The application deadline for the next round  is January 1.

The first round of pilot projects yielded a lot of data about production methods, seed varieties, and processing techniques. 

"This past year we were as far west as Murray and as far east as Bath County.  We'd like to see that continuation or even expansion on either end," said Adam Watson, Industrial Hemp Program Coordinator in the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.  "Definitely, we have different growing environments in Kentucky."

Applications are available on the Kentucky Department of Agriculture's website at www.kyagr.com/hemp.  Applicants who are selected will undergo background checks and site visits.

The State Agriculture Committee heard an update last week on Kentucky's hemp pilot project. In September, researchers at the University of Kentucky harvested the first legal crop in decades. UK Plant Sciences Professor David Williams says there's growing interest in a variety of hemp supported products.  "They're particularly interested in the vast of the long strong fibers for composite materials like car door panels, pseudo plastics, particle board type products, building construction materials," said Williams.

Kentucky Department of Agriculture

An agreement is in place between Kentucky and the federal government that aims to make hemp seed importing a more seamless process. 

Agriculture commissioner James Comer announced late Friday the two sides had reached an agreement following a dispute in May when a shipment of seeds was held up in customs for several weeks.

"With this agreement, Kentucky is now the first state in the nation with a legal, practical process through which farmers can partner with the state to grow hemp," said Comer in a written statement.  “We and the feds started out as adversaries, but by both talking and listening, we became partners in this process."

The agriculture department says it will fill out an application when importing hemp seeds and the federal government will process that application in an “expeditious” manner.  And, the Agriculture Department says the agreement means it has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit it filed against the justice department in May. 

Bringing It Home the Movie

A documentary called "Bringing it Home," which trumpets the benefits of industrialized hemp, was shown before an audience in downtown Hopkinsville Saturday.

The film, by two North Carolina filmmakers spotlights the effort to use hemp as a building material for homes and warehouses.

 “[It’s] a material that is mold and mildew resistant, fire-retardant, pest-resistant and in addition to that, it’s absorbing carbon out of the atmosphere as well as toxins. What they’ve found is that it’s not only breathable but a very good thermal regulating construction material," said film co-director Linda Booker.

Booker has shown the documentary in several states, says the film was well-received in Christian County.

 “It was really great to see such a diverse audience of all ages,” said Booker.   “I know that there were farmers there and people just interested in looking at new job opportunities and new economic opportunities for your state.  And of course we talk about this on a national level as well."

Several industrial hemp pilot projects associated with state universities continue this summer across Kentucky. The mission of those projects is to figure out which types of hemp seeds grow best in the current climate.  The documentary’s co-director is Blaire Johnson.

An industrial hemp official is working to clear up some confusion about the plant’s oils and extracts and their uses as Kentucky researchers work toward finding uses for potential treatments with cannabidiol, or CBD.

Hemp Industries Association Executive Director Eric Steenstra says the non-profit trade group has received several calls from customers who have bought hemp oil at health stores and want to know if their purchase has CBD in them.

Test Hemp Crop Grows With Arrival of More Seeds

Jul 15, 2014

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.

Kentucky's First Test Hemp Crop Is Planted

May 28, 2014

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.

The most recent farm bill is allowing a handful of farmers across the country to put hemp, the nonpsychoactive cousin of marijuana, in the ground.

The bill allows small-scale experimentation with the plant. But despite the new law, many farmers say they're getting mixed messages from the federal government.

Hemp Seeds Will Go Into Kentucky Soil This Week

May 19, 2014

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 Dept. of Agriculture

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.

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