The Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) has approved hundreds of applications from industrial hemp growers, who will be permitted to cultivate up to 12,018 acres in total of the crop this year.
225 applications were approved by KDA, up from 209 in 2017. However, the amount of area under cultivation this year will be less than the amount approved in 2017 (12,800 acres). Only 3,200 acres were actually grown last year, but that was still a record for the state since it re-embraced hemp.
While most of the cultivation area this year will be for outdoor growing, more than 15 acres has been approved for indoor growers in 2018.
185 of the applicants will be focusing on floral material, 103 on grain or seeds, and 66 for fiber – some applicants specified more than one focus area.
“Kentucky continues to lead on industrial hemp research, exploring every aspect of this versatile crop,” said Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles. “Because of the research conducted by our growers, processors, and universities, I am more optimistic than ever that we can put industrial hemp on a path to widespread commercialization once Congress removes it from the federal list of controlled substances.”
As harmless as it is and containing next to no THC, industrial hemp has trace amounts of the non-intoxicating cannabinoid, which creates a legal headache.
2018 will be the fourth growing season since the state again permitted industrial hemp cultivation. The crop was originally grown in Kentucky starting in 1875 and it was once the nation’s leader in hemp cultivation, with a peak production of 40,000 tons in 1840.
Commercial production ceased in the 1950’s as a result of prohibition and began again in 2014, when just 33 acres was planted. In 2015, more than 900 acres were planted and about 500 were successfully harvested. In 2016, there were 2,300 acres planted and approximately 2,000 acres harvested..
Kentucky, Vermont and Colorado were the first states to again grow the crop after the Agricultural Act of 2014 (aka 2014 U.S. Farm Bill) was passed; which allowed industrial hemp cultivation for research purposes.