Kentucky Submits Industrial Hemp Plan to USDA

With the passing of the farm bill in the U.S. Congress, Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles submitted the state's regulatory framework for hemp to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for approval.

In announcement from his office, Quarles said that Kentucky is first in the nation to apply for USDA approval of its hemp program.

President Donald Trump signed the federal farm bill on Thursday. It assigns regulatory authority of industrial hemp to the states and establishes minimum requirements that a state regulatory framework must meet to win USDA approval, Quarles's office said in a news release. The new law removes industrial hemp from the federal Controlled Substances Act and gives hemp growers access to USDA programs such as crop insurance.

“Kentucky’s regulatory framework perfectly aligns with the requirements spelled out in the farm bill,” Quarles said. “Hemp growers, processors, and manufacturers deserve swift action so they can proceed with confidence. Kentucky has led the charge on industrial hemp with bipartisan support for the past five years. Now we are eager to take the next step toward solidifying Kentucky’s position as the epicenter of industrial hemp production and processing in the United States.”
 
Commissioner Quarles attended the presidential farm bill signing ceremony on Thursday in Washington and personally delivered the state plan to USDA leadership.

In Kentucky, individuals and businesses must be licensed by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture to grow or process industrial hemp in Kentucky. The KDA has received more than 1,000 applications to participate in the state’s industrial hemp research pilot program in 2019. An informational and networking session in October in Elizabethtown attracted some 750 farmers, processors, manufacturers, educators, and others interested in participating in the program, the commissioner's office said.
 
Participants in the 2018 program grew more than 6,700 acres of industrial hemp, the most in the five-year history of the program and more than double the acreage grown in 2017. Kentucky licensed processors paid Kentucky growers $7.5 million for harvested hemp in 2017 and reported $25.6 million in capital improvements and investments and $16.7 million in gross product sales, the release said.

U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell was a vocal supporter of the hemp component in the farm bill. In a statement last week, when Congress passed the bill, McConnell also extended thanks to Congressman James Comer, a fellow Republican who represents western Kentucky.

“I’d like to express my gratitude to my fellow conferees, especially my colleague from Kentucky, Congressman Jamie Comer," McConnell said. "I would also like to thank the Kentucky Farm Bureau, which has been my partner every step of the way. Earlier this month, the KFB announced the beginning of its centennial year. I would be hard pressed to think of a better way to celebrate that 100th birthday than with a new Farm Bill. There’s a reason this bill passed both Houses with overwhelming, bipartisan majorities. There’s a reason this has been a big priority for Congress and the administration. Farming families deserve more stability. Once the president signs this Farm Bill into law, that is precisely what they will have.” 

Quarles thanked Congress and President Trump for a farm bill that will maintain federal programs that he said are vital to Kentucky agriculture.
 
“The farm bill maintains and enhances important protections for grain and dairy farmers who have endured low commodity prices for the past five years,” Quarles said. “It also locks in funding for the Market Access Program, which helps farmers and agribusinesses sell American products abroad, and animal health programs to protect our livestock from disease outbreaks. We appreciate the work of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Congressman James Comer on the conference committee to get a farm bill that serves the needs of Kentucky agriculture. We also are grateful to President Trump for signing this legislation, which is critical to the future of rural America.”

-Staff report

Photo: Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles (right) was invited to attend the signing ceremony for the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized hemp. Afterwards, Quarles personally delivered Kentucky's state hemp plan to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue (left). (Provided)