COLUMN: First seeds of hemp to be planted in May

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Bowling Green Daily News/Kentucky Press News Service

The right to grow industrial hemp in Kentucky has faced many hurdles on the state and federal levels, but now it is legal to grow, and a new pilot project with the plant could be an economic boon for our state.

Kentucky lawmakers worked tirelessly last year to get hemp reintroduced into the state, and language was added to the federal farm bill, which allows state agriculture departments to designate hemp pilot projects for research in states that already allow the growing of hemp. State officials have unfortunately had to go through federal bureaucracy on every level to get the seeds required to plant here.

One major hurdle still facing the state is getting Congress to deregulate hemp.

Beginning this month, the state’s first industrial hemp crop in decades will start going into the ground, now that the pipeline for shipping seeds into the state is opening to allow experimental plantings.

This is a pretty historical moment, considering the production of hemp has been banned in the state for decades. It was a very popular crop with early pioneers and was reintroduced and widely grown in Kentucky during World War II as a way to help the war effort. Hemp was banned after the war when the federal government classified the crop as a controlled substance related to marijuana.

So far, eight pilot projects are planned statewide as part of a small-scale reintroduction to gauge the versatile crop’s potential in the marketplace and as a moneymaker for farmers. The first seeds will be planted May 16 in Rockcastle County.

This is the first step in getting farmers to start growing the plant. Those involved hope they can get enough seeds to gather important research needed by the fall. They are hoping by next year they will have enough seeds to have several processors in the state and several farmers under contract.

We hope they achieve this goal.

These pilot programs have the real potential to become a great asset financially and perhaps medically.

One pilot project in Fayette County will focus on hemp’s potential in medicine. Gov. Steve Beshear recently signed a bill that allows doctors at two Kentucky research hospitals to prescribe cannabidol to patients.

Other pilot projects will help answer every question a farmer wants to know about hemp, such as what variety of seeds works best on which soil, what’s the optimum date to plant and what type of farm equipment it takes to harvest the hemp.

While hemp re-introduction still in its early stages, we are glad it is being reintroduced in our state. It has the potential to be a huge boost for Kentucky’s economy.

We look forward to seeing how these projects advance these initial pilot programs.