LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer says it’s been a long road to bring back industrial hemp.
Kentucky lawmakers passed a bill in 2013 to allow the reintroduction of industrial hemp if the federal government lifted its ban.
Then, a federal farm bill agreement allowed pilot growing programs. Comer says Kentucky helped lead the way.
“Here we are, we passed it in Kentucky. Now other states are saying ‘Yeah, we want to do that too’. Indiana’s following suit.
Tennessee’s followed suit passing legislation,” Comer said.
However, the big challenge has been getting the hemp seeds into the country, since it has been illegal to import them into the U.S.
The federal government banned hemp several decades ago when it classified the crop as a controlled substance related to marijuana.
“Even though legislation passed in the Farm Bill to legalize it, the customs agents and border patrol and all the different federal bureaucracies
didn’t know about that, so we’ve had to educate all the federal bureaucracies,”Comer said.
In the next few days, the seeds will finally arrive to Kentucky.
They’re coming in from Europe, Canada, and possibly even China. The seeds are first arriving to a port in Chicago.
Comer says six Kentucky universities will do pilot projects on industrial hemp, including the University of Louisville.
They are hoping the projects will answer many questions.
“Like what is the cost of production per acre, what is the yield per acre, what types of invasive species may come in and harm the crop,
what types of farm equipment can we harvest this crop with, which variety of seeds grow best in which types of soil,” Comer said.
Comer says they must also determine how marketable some of the hemp will be.