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Hemp Program in Kentucky Maintains Steady Growth

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture approved 225 applications from growers to cultivate up to 12,018 acres of industrial hemp for research purposes this year, the state said in a news release.

More than 681,000 square feet of greenhouse space was approved for indoor growers.

"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," said Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles.

The KDA received a total of 257 applications. Applicants were asked to identify which harvestable component of the plant would be the focus of their research (floral material, grain, or 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. GPS coordinates of planting sites 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 may be found.

"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," Quarles said. "I am proud of the relationship we have built.

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, 2018.

-Staff report