Recent passage of Farm Bill
opens door to hemp production
Kentucky had a jump start with test trials back in 2016
(March 2019) – Hemp producers, processors, advocates and researchers celebrated the recent passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized the production of hemp and use of its derivatives – such as grain or seed, fiber, CBD oil and many other uses.
Particular praise of the bill was heard in Frankfort, Ky., where Kentucky Agriculture Commission Ryan Quarles said in a release, “When I was elected Commissioner of Agriculture, I promised to make Kentucky the epicenter of hemp production in the United States. Thanks to the historically important language in the 2018 Farm Bill, Kentucky now has the opportunity to solidify its position as the national leader in hemp production.”
The passage of the 2018 Farm Bill in December legalized the production of hemp in Kentucky and other states where there is a “state plan” in place to monitor and regulate the crop. The bill devolves the power the states to do this.
Photo courtesy of UK
UK agriculture professor Tom Keene speaks to a group during the September 2016 Hemp Field Day at the university’s research farm in Lexington, Ky.
Secondly, the Farm Bill removes industrial hemp, defined as cannabis sativa, and all of its extracts (including cannabinoids), with not more than 0.3 percent THC concentration on a dry weight basis, from the list of controlled substances. As a result, the Drug Enforcement Agency has no authority to interfere with the interstate transportation of hemp.
n Learn more about the Kentucky hemp program at the Kentucky Department of Agriculture website: www.kyagr.com/hemp. Other resources are the Kentucky Hemp Industries Association online at www.kyhia.org and the Hemp Industries Association at www.thehia.org.
Thirdly, the Farm Bill makes industrial hemp eligible for federal crop insurance and other USDA programs.
To qualify as a hemp producer, a state must provide a plan to the U.S. Department of Agriculture demonstrating the state has procedures in place that ensure the following:
• A record of where hemp is produced in the state;
• Procedures to ensure hemp produced in the state meets the legal definition of not more than 0.3 percent THC;
• Procedures for disposing of materials with a THC concentration exceeding 0.3 percent THC;
• Procedures for handling violations of the 2018 Farm Bill and the proposed state plan.
In addition, the Farm Bill maintains the Food and Drug Administration’s regulatory authority over ingestible and topical products, meaning hemp growers and processors must have FDA approval to market products for human consumption or cosmetic use.
Kentucky is well positioned to fulfill Commissioner Quarles pledge to make the state a leader in hemp production as the industry continues to rapidly take shape. Research plots began at the University of Kentucky as early as 2014 when the 2014 Farm Bill allowed research institutions to get approval from the federal government to grow hemp for research. Forty-one states, including Kentucky and Indiana, passed legislation and approved programs to do so. Those research programs continue today at the University of Kentucky and Purdue University.
“Kentucky has led the charge on industrial hemp with bipartisan support for the past five years,” Quarles said in a statement following passage of the recent Farm Bill. “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.”
Quarles continued, “By removing hemp from the list of controlled substances and directing the U.S.D.A. to make hemp growers eligible to participate in federal farm programs on an equal footing with other crops, the new Farm Bill has laid the groundwork for full-scale commercialization of this promising crop.”
In order to grow or process hemp, individuals or businesses must hold a license from Kentucky Department of Agriculture. It remains illegal to grow or process raw hemp material (i.e. seeds, live plants, and/or unprocessed harvested hemp) without a KDA license.
Kentucky’s existing hemp program meets and exceeds the minimum requirements of a state plan outlined in the Farm Bill. Quarles submitted the state plan to the USDA immediately after President Donald Trump signed the Farm Bill in December.
KDA plans to revise existing hemp rules in the future to alleviate administrative burdens, but there are no program changes for 2019 applicants, according to the department.
The 2019 Grower Application window closed on Nov. 30, 2018, and no further applications are being accepted at this time. All 2019 Grower Applications were reviewed and notifications sent by Jan. 15. Applicants who are approved will receive full instructions. Applicants who are denied admission into the program will be given an opportunity to appeal.
Meantime, those in the hemp industry continue to meet and rally together to create this new lucrative market. For instance, the fifth annual Kentucky Hemp Industries Association Conference was held Feb. 28 in Bowling Green, Ky. The one-day event gave attendees the opportunity to stay up to date on the latest hemp research from universities and leading industry experts. The conference is designed to bring together hemp producers, processors, advocates and anyone interested in learning more about the industry.
Speakers included Doris Hamilton of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles. It also featured several university researchers such as Dr. Paul Woolsey and Dr. Todd Willian of Western Kentucky University, Dr. Jaganadh Satyavolu of the University of Louisville, and Desiree Sarka, Dr. Nicole Gauthier, Tom Keene and Dr. Craig Schluttenhofer from the University of Kentucky, among others.
While Indiana has joined the hemp research program, the state has yet to set up its “state plan” to oversee and regulate the production of hemp. The program, which will identify the governing body and create the licensing system, must also be approved by the U.S.D.A. Bills have been introduced in the Indiana House and Senate to do just that. The initiative was stalled last year when a bill was halted by Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, who raised questions about the state’s readiness to regulate the industry. As a result, the state Senate voted to strip the bill and send it to an agriculture committee to study it. Historically, Indiana was a big producer of hemp before the crop became federally regulated in the 1970s. Indiana legislators are hopeful a return to hemp production in the state will lead to many new jobs.
Kentucky, meanwhile, is emerging as the leader. On Oct. 11, 2018 the KDA held its first-ever Hemp Applicant Meeting, where it provided a seminar and a networking session for growers and processors.
The industry is rapidly expanding in Kentucky. In 2017, for instance, there were $16.7 million in product gross sales of hemp, according to the KDA. Last year, there were 210 licensed growers and 72 licensed processors. The growth in the numbers of growers and acreage is rising. In 2018, there were 16,100 approved acres of hemp; for 2019, 42,000 acres of hemp have already been approved.
The University of Kentucky is planning its next Hemp Research Field Day for Aug. 21 at Spindletop Farm in Lexington, Ky. Details are pending but information will soon be available at the UK College of Agriculture website.
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