WASHINGTON, D.C. (WBKO) -- Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles submitted the Commonwealth’s regulatory framework for hemp to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for approval as required in the 2018 farm bill.
Kentucky is the first state in the nation to apply for USDA approval of its hemp program.
“Kentucky’s regulatory framework perfectly aligns with the requirements spelled out in the farm bill,” Commissioner 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 in Washington and personally delivered the state plan to USDA leadership.
The federal farm bill that Congress passed last week assigns regulatory authority of industrial hemp to the states and establishes minimum requirements that a state regulatory framework must meet to win USDA approval.
The 2018 act removes industrial hemp from the federal Controlled Substances Act and gives hemp growers access to USDA programs such as crop insurance.
Individuals and businesses must be licensed by the KDA 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.
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.
Under Kentucky’s industrial hemp research pilot program, the KDA works closely with state and local law enforcement officers and provides GPS coordinates of approved industrial hemp planting, processing, and storage sites to law enforcement before any hemp is planted.
Participants also must pass background checks and consent to allow program staff and law enforcement officers to inspect any premises where hemp or hemp products are being grown, handled, stored, or processed.
Commissioner Quarles also applauded Congress and President Donald J. Trump for a farm bill that will maintain federal programs that 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,” Commissioner 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.”