Decision Nears on Industrial Hemp Legislation

By Lauren Forsythe | 

Today is the last day of Kentucky's regular session, and the controversial industrial hemp bill is still on the table.

As legislators meet to decide the fate of industrial hemp in Kentucky several questions are left unanswered in the agriculture community.

If the bill passes through the house, the University of Kentucky will start the research phase of industrial hemp.

"Even though it hasn't passed yet we are still doing some preliminary market research to find out where the market will be or what will be the strongest market for our Kentucky producers, nut the other thing would be actually implementing some research plots on some of our research farms," says Joanna Coles, University of Kentucky Warren County Extension Office for Agriculture Agent.

Coles says its most important to look at the profitability how farmers should go about raising hemp, and the equipment it might take.

"What the market research shows is that we import a lot of hemp, so if we can raise it right here and be profitable for our Kentucky farmers then that would be a win-win situation," Coles says.

Coles says much of the imported hemp comes from Canada.

Industrial hemp has been grown in Canada since 1998.

Farmers there earn about $250 per acre for hemp, while Kentucky farmers earn upwards of $700 per acre on cash crops like corn.

Simpson County extension agent Jason Phillips says that will probably be a different situation in Kentucky.

"I think there situation is different than ours their climate is different, their soil types are different so I just think there are certain things that can glean from their situations such as marketability of the product, but not so much agronomic practices," says Jason Phillips, University of Kentucky Simpson County Extension Office for Agriculture Agent.

Hemp has not been a legal crop in Kentucky since 1860, and Kentucky farmers could soon find out if they will be able to grow industrial hemp in the future.

Coles says industrial hemp has the potential to be used for food, fibers, and energy in Kentucky.

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