ELIZABETHTOWN— More than 700 people went to Elizabethtown for a special hemp open house put on by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.
From “hempcrete” to CBD oil, farmers and processors say they are excited about Kentucky’s hemp industry.
However, they are hoping Congress will make farming hemp easier.

" /> ELIZABETHTOWN— More than 700 people went to Elizabethtown for a special hemp open house put on by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.
From “hempcrete” to CBD oil, farmers and processors say they are excited about Kentucky’s hemp industry.
However, they are hoping Congress will make farming hemp easier.

" />

More than 700 attend hemp open house event

10/12/2018 07:08 PM

ELIZABETHTOWN— More than 700 people went to Elizabethtown for a special hemp open house put on by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.

From “hempcrete” to CBD oil, farmers and processors say they are excited about Kentucky’s hemp industry.

“When we first started, there was a lot of confusion about what hemp might be and what hemp might become. And we’re happy, a few years down the road to say hemp has become a lot of things. It’s become a sought after commodity, and it’s become a driver of economics and an alternative for tobacco farmers in this state, said Steve Bevan, the president of Gencanna Global, a hemp processor.

Evolving from tobacco is how Brent Cornett got started in the industry. He explained, “The outlook on tobacco is not the best. We kind of saw the handwriting on the wall and we thought we needed to look for other opportunities.”

Cornett is now in his third harvest of hemp and is farming 85 acres of hemp. In 2017, he farmed just 35 acres.

The reason for the increase is because it’s a cash crop. Cornett explained, “Kind of an average hemp crop would be about the same profitability as an excellent tobacco crop.”

Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles says that part of the reason he’s excited that Kentucky is taking the forefront when it comes to hemp. “2018 will be the biggest industrial hemp since the crop has been reintroduced and I’m proud to say we had over 6,700 acres which more than doubles what we had in 2017. We think 2019 will be the biggest year.”

In 2017, Kentucky farmers made about $7.5 million growing, but they say there are still a lot of barriers keeping more people from joining in this industry.”

Cornett said, “This is a huge investment that we make in the spring of every year and we’re putting it out there with no crop insurance.’ He added, “There’s no access to capital as well. Banks won’t lend money through hemp because it’s not a legal crop. They won’t count it as collateral.”

The Farm Bill going through Congress right now would change that, removing hemp as a Schedule 1 drug.

Cornett is looking forward to that. He said, “It’s a big disappointment. I mean, all these companies have kind of got their hands tied. There’s investors sitting on the sidelines, just waiting for everything to be legal and honestly, it should have happened a year ago. At this point we’ve just hot handcuffs on this industry.”

Quarles said he expects the Senate to address the Farm Bill after the midterm election.

While there is bipartisan support for the hemp section of the bill, it currently includes strict work requirements for the food stamp program. Democrats have said they will not support the bill with those requirements.

“We’d like to see the legalization of industrial hemp to happen as quickly as possible. We think that using the farm bill is a good vehicle for that. We’ve got good language in place and we have the support from our congressional delegation, so we’re kind of sitting in a good space right now,” said Quarles.

If the Farm Bill passes as is, or if a new one is introduced, will likely depend on how the midterm elections pan out.

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