Kentucky's Hemp Industry showed explosive growth in 2018

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WBKO) -- Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles announced that sales of Kentucky hemp products in 2018 nearly quadrupled compared to the previous year and that the amount that farmers were paid for their harvests more than doubled.

“When I became Commissioner of Agriculture, I promised to make Kentucky the epicenter of hemp production in the United States,” said Commissioner Ryan Quarles. “Look at us now. We are building the critical mass of growers, processors, and researchers that will ensure the hemp industry’s success in Kentucky for years to come.”

Hemp processors reported $57.75 million in gross product sales last year, according to a Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) review of 2018 hemp licensed processor reports. That compares with $16.7 million in gross product sales in 2017. Processors paid Kentucky farmers $17.75 million for harvested hemp materials in 2018, up from $7.5 million the year before.

Hemp processors spent $23.4 million in capital improvements and employed a total of 459 people in 2018, according to the processor reports.

“It’s important to keep in mind that all of this economic activity took place before the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp production,” said Quarles. “I am encouraged by these numbers and hope this news solidifies Kentucky’s reputation as the hemp center of the United States. I’d like to thank Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Congressman James Comer for working to include hemp legalization in the 2018 Farm Bill.”

The 2018 Farm Bill removed industrial hemp from the federal Controlled Substances Act and gives hemp growers increased access to USDA programs.

Federal crop insurance and other USDA programs will take time to develop as the Trump Administration works to implement all aspects of the 2018 Farm Bill. It also outlined the minimum requirements a state regulatory framework must contain to earn approval by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Commissioner Quarles submitted Kentucky’s hemp plan to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue minutes after President Trump signed the farm bill on Dec. 20, making Kentucky the first state to file its plan. The USDA announced in February that it plans to finalize regulations and approve state plans in time for the 2020 growing year.