On May 5th 2015, James Comer, Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA), held a press conference in a Lexington-based tobacco facility belonging to G.F. Vaughan, the last remaining tobacco processor in Kentucky.
His message was historic, his location symbolic: the first year of state-sanctioned industrial hemp farming under the Farm Bill succeeded, and the pilot program’s second year promises to be bigger and better, with the potential to elevate the entire state economy by restoring industrial hemp as the new “cash crop.”
Specifically, Commissioner Comer announced that KDA had approved 121 total participants, including seven universities, over 1,724 acres — a significant increase from last year. Additionally, millions of dollars have been invested in the state’s emerging industrial hemp production and processing industries.
The revival of industrial hemp means that Kentucky is creating a new agricultural commodity market, attracting an infusion of private-sector money from both inside and outside the state. By giving farmers, suppliers and processors the ability to hire additional staff and join the vanguard of the global resurgence in industrial hemp, Kentucky is empowering a return to its past agricultural leadership.
Kentucky is once again the American heartland of industrial hemp culture, a title it proudly held throughout history before Prohibition. But it wouldn’t have gotten here if not for the determination of its political leadership, starting with Comer himself. He was an early advocate of legalizing industrial hemp and worked with thought leaders from both parties to win support, joining with the rich Kentucky leadership of Rand Paul, Mitch McConnell, Thomas Massie, Paul Hornback, John Yarmouth, and Andy Barr to move to action.
In 2014, these pilot programs were legitimized under the Farm Bill (aka The Agricultural Act of 2014). Given the tough economic times, and particularly the economic plight of farmers, Comer’s Kentucky Proud strategy for a sustainable crop made perfect sense. But politics intervened, and as the first 250-pound shipment of certified industrial hemp seeds from Italy arrived at the Louisville airport, the DEA seized them as if they were contraband, in direct violation of the new law.
Where others may have cowered before the federal authorities, Comer filed suit against the DEA, asserting his state’s rights to carry out its industrial hemp program. Realizing that they overstepped their bounds, the DEA released the seeds in time for planting: Jamie Comer’s quick action saved the 2014 industrial hemp growing season, setting the stage for the dramatic increase in the 2015 planting season.
GenCanna Global: Setting the Industry Standard
“Young hemp plant; Source GenCanna Global”
All pilot programs in Kentucky seek to move industrial hemp farming forward, but one in particular has lead the way: GenCanna Global and its Hemp Kentucky Project.
GenCanna, working with its strategic local partners, immediately distinguished themselves by establishing the state’s first dedicated analytical laboratory in Lexington. Since compliance with potency levels is vitally important, regulators from KDA and scientists from universities were invited into the lab to observe and confer. The Hemp Kentucky Project is compiling significant internal data for use in future agricultural production decisions.
The Hemp Kentucky Project now employs over 40 people at facilities in Jackson and Garrard Counties. Close working relationships with nursery and farming families have led to high expectations for the 2015 outdoor season. Because GenCanna specializes in industrial hemp with high CBD (Cannabidiol), it is necessary to have defined protocols at all stages of the growth and processing cycle. This new-aged approach to the ancient industrial hemp cultivation and production techniques has been enabled by the quick adoption of modern standards at both locations.
CEO Matty Mangone-Miranda quoted “ between our strategic partners with local nurseries and farms, our scientific research, and breeding and seed development at our Hemp Campus, we are literally seeding this agricultural revolution in Kentucky. The ability to produce large amounts of CBD will fundamentally alter the supply available for both the nutraceutical and pharmaceutical industries. This Hemp Kentucky Proud effort will catapult locals into the forefront of industrial hemp production nationally.”
GenCanna is drawing on the great availability of different farming techniques to properly understand all aspects of repurposing existing farm assets to its unique high CBD industrial hemp. As Chris Stubbs, GenCanna’s Chief Scientific Officer, puts it “the GenCanna Production Platform (GPP) assures the standardized, repeatable quality from nursery to field to processing to formulation.” Additionally, Chris adds “the GPP ensures our mutual responsibilities with respect to staying within the letter and intent of the laws under which we operate. We couldn’t be more pleased with the leadership and understanding that the Kentucky Department of Agriculture has shown.”
GenCanna is not alone in its efforts. Their strategic partner, Atalo Holdings, is the largest growing cultivation in the entire pilot program with over 30 farming partners. Atalo and GenCanna are teaming up to repurpose a former tobacco seed development facility, conveniently located in the midst of the traditional industrial hemp heartland. This new facility, a Hemp Campus, will be a research center that will attract companies and scientists from around the world to develop knowledge of CBD and create a vast inventory of Kentucky-developed, American-certified hemp seed cultivars.
As the industrial hemp production of large amounts of CBD becomes a probability, globally renowned research scientists are noticing. Dr. Mark Rosenfeld, CEO of ISA Scientific, an American-based group of medical experts and cannabinoid scientists with direct ties to Israel and China talked about the partnering with GenCanna and the Hemp Kentucky Project as it “paves the way for substantial improvements in treating chronic, debilitating, and life-threatening health conditions that not only afflict many Kentuckians, but hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Part of the reason why we have a global scale of what we do.”
ISA Scientific’s Dr. Perry Fine (whose roots are in Lexington) spoke of how the GenCanna-ISA partnership will immediately work on treating diabetes and chronic pain with pharmaceutical-grade CBD therapies that are affordable and accessible.
Through its Hemp Kentucky Project, GenCanna and its strategic partners are working collaboratively to produce large quantities of CBD diversified over multiple farms in Kentucky. COO Steve Bevan, recognizing the sizable capital investments in nurseries and farms, insists that empowering farmers to “help commoditize the production of CBD such that a sustainable agricultural industry can develop to literally produce for both the nutraceutical and pharmaceutical markets. We are creating jobs, research, facility development, and industry leadership, all which require the human capital necessary to make this happen, Steve suggests that “we’re going to need workers, technicians, accountants, support staff, scientists, everybody. And we’re going to find each of those people right here in Kentucky.”