LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - A new federal Farm Bill gives the go-ahead for pilot programs for hemp growth in the Bluegrass. And on Monday, some Kentucky lawmakers are set to make a big announcement.
The crop has been banned in Kentucky since 1970, but this year, hemp will grow in the Bluegrass once again. It's coming back as a pilot project. The federal Farm Bill signed by President Obama on February 7 allows state agriculture to grow hemp for research. That's what Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer has said he's wanted for years.
"Everyone knew that industrial hemp would grow well in Kentucky because it's a native crop," said Comer. "We know the market is there. Again, as Senator Rand Paul said in his letter to the U.S., it's the only industrialized nation that doesn't allow for production of industrial hemp."
One of its stigmas is the fact that industrial hemp comes from cannabis, which is the same plant marijuana comes from. But some state leaders argue that hemp is used to do so much more, like produce items from clothing and car parts. Comer says his office has received lots of requests from businesses wanting to come to the Commonwealth and process hemp.
"We have the ability to pinpoint the exactly which fields it will be grown," said Comer. "You will register with the department of agriculture."
There are no plans yet to license full-scale hemp production in the state but already farmers are getting excited.
"Any time you can give a farmer another tool that he may have an opportunity to make a profit out of it, then he has an opportunity to maybe keep his farm," said Brian Furnish, a Kentucky farmer.
Both Attorney General Jack Conway and Comer have already agreed to pursue industrial hemp production for commercial purposes, going far beyond the pilot projects.
The big announcement will be made Monday across eastern Kentucky, starting at the Knott County Sportsplex at 10 a.m., continuing to Hazard, then Leslie County, Jackson County, and finally London. Senator Rand Paul and Comer will also continue the announcements on Tuesday in Corbin, Harlan, and Pikeville. The schedule is listed below.
Monday, February 17:
Knott County Sportsplex
Hazard Community College
Leslie County Courthouse
Jackson County Regional Food Center and Farmers Market
Wildcat Harley-Davidson in London
Tuesday, February 18:
Dixie Cafe of Corbin
Hilton Garden Inn in Pikeville