Pubdate: Sun, 10 Jun 2018
Source: Lexington Herald-Leader (KY)
Copyright: 2018 Lexington Herald-Leader
Author: Janet Patton


Kentucky agriculture commissioner: 'It's time to legalize the crop'

Kentucky is again king of hemp, according to officials who spoke at
the first Kentucky Hemp Days event on Saturday.

Held in Cynthiana, the festival will be an annual celebration of the
crop's revival, which began after Kentucky lawmakers cleared a path
for legal cultivation beginning with the General Assembly in 2013 and
in Congress in 2014.

On Saturday, as a crowd turned out to hear the latest developments a
day after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., inserted
language in the federal farm bill that will remove hemp from the
controlled substance list, distancing it from marijuana.

Agricultural Commissioner Ryan Quarles said Kentucky leads the nation
in hemp production and "it's time to legalize the crop," which could
happen if the farm bill passes with language U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell
inserted yesterday.

"Industrial hemp gives Kentucky the opportunity to be first in
something," said Ryan Quarles, Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner. "We
know it has true economic value here. ... Other states have modeled
their hemp programs after Kentucky's due to the success we have right
here. ... It is time to legalize hemp on a national level. It's not a
novelty anymore. ... It's time to unleash its economic potential by
legalizing it through federal government. It's time to legalize the

If the change makes it through both the Senate and the House, it will
give additional protections for farmers like Brian Furnish, who will
grow 300 acres of hemp in Harrison County this year. In partnership
with Ananda Hemp, his company will contract for another 350 acres, he

Altogether, about 10 farmers will grow 1,000 acres of hemp in Harrison
County, which has been the state's top hemp producer.

But none of it will qualify for federal crop insurance, which forces
farmers to self-insure and limits potential production that is needed
to meet growing demand.

"Our sales are up 500 percent in the last four months and the sales
just continue to come in," Furnish said Saturday. "Demand is here
right now and is going to continue to increase."

If the provision passes this year, Furnish also expects to see more
research and development dollars pour into the field.

"That would tell the DEA and the FDA and the USDA that this is a legal
crop and the government needs to get out of the way and let free
market take over," he said.

U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington, was awarded the 'Friend of Hemp'
award by Brian Furnish, president of the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, during
the Kentucky Hemp Days festival in Cynthiana for Barr's work to help
hemp companies have access to the banking system. Awards were also
presented to U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Vanceburg, Kentucky House
Minority Leader Rocky Adkins, former Kentucky Rep. Tom McKee and
Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles.

Quarles told the crowd Kentucky saw $25 million in investment last
year, and there are now 70 hemp-related companies that are providing
jobs and more than 200 farmers growing industrial hemp.

Just as in the 1900s, when the Bluegrass region grew 75 percent of all
hemp, Kentucky again leads the country in acres of hemp grown, with
15,000 this year, and in sales, with nearly $17 million in
Kentucky-grown derived products last year, he said.

That is hardly a drop in the bucket compared to the $9.2 billion
market of the legal cannabis industry in the U.S., and is still a
niche in Kentucky's $6 billion farm economy, but Quarles and other
lawmakers Saturday said they expect that will change, and they hailed
the economic potential of the crop.

At Furnish's farm, people toured a new lab built to distill the "green
matter" from the hemp into hemp oil, touched a bale of raw hemp fiber
and saw the one and only hemp plant on display, in a pot.

Mike Fisher, who works for 3M in Cynthiana, came to tour the farm.
"For this rural community, it's pretty impressive," he said. He'd love
to see more being grown and processed.

"For our community, it will be a neat addition. It will bring more
jobs and different types of products. It's just a place for us to
grow," he said. "And in a rural community that used to be based
strictly on tobacco, this really gives us a chance to step into a new
area. . Our economy as a whole is really starting to take a jump, and
I think this is part of it."

All of the hemp in Kentucky is grown under the auspices of the
Kentucky Department of Agriculture, which signs agreements with
individual farmers and processors to grow, handle and sell the hemp as
pilot projects to study the market and conduct research.

"They're creating products people want to buy," Quarles said.

Many of those kinds of products were on display Saturday at the
festival, from oils containing hemp-derived cannabidiol oil to
T-shirts made with hemp fiber and brownies and ice cream made by a
local church with hemp "hearts."
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