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KY: Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program now taking applications for 2017

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New measures set to enable sustained growth of the program

FRANKFORT (October 11, 2016) Kentuckians interested in participating in the industrial hemp research pilot program in 2017 are invited to submit an application with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.

“The pilot research program will continue to build on the successes of the previous administration by developing research data on industrial hemp production, processing, manufacturing, and marketing for Kentucky growers,” Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said. KDA’s objective is to expand and strengthen Kentucky’s research pilot program, so that if the federal government chooses to remove industrial hemp from the list of controlled substances, Kentucky’s growers and farmers will be positioned to thrive, prosper and ultimately prevail as national leaders in industrial hemp production.”

The KDA operates its program under the authority of a provision of the 2014 federal farm bill, 7 U.S.C. § 5940 that permits industrial hemp pilot programs in states where hemp production is permitted by state law. Participants planted more than 2,350 acres of hemp in 2016 compared with 922 acres in 2015 and 33 acres in 2014, the first year of the program.

Applicants should be aware of important new measures for the 2017 research program, including the following:

· To strengthen the department’s partnership with state and local law enforcement officers, KDA will provide GPS coordinates of approved industrial hemp planting sites to law enforcement agencies before any hemp is planted. GPS coordinates must be submitted on the application. Applicants must consent to allow program staff and law enforcement officers to inspect any premises where hemp or hemp products are being grown, handled, stored, or processed.

· To promote transparency and ensure a fair playing field, KDA will rely on objective criteria, outlined in the newly released 2017 Policy Guide, to evaluate applications. An applicant’s criminal background check must indicate no drug-related misdemeanor convictions, and no felony convictions of any kind, in the past 10 years. Staff with the KDA’s industrial hemp pilot project program will consider whether applicants have complied with instructions from the department, Kentucky State Police, and local law enforcement.

· As the research program continues to grow, KDA’s hemp staff needs additional resources and manpower to administer this tremendously popular program. The addition of participant fees will enable KDA Hemp Staff to handle an increasing workload without needing additional taxpayer dollars from the General Assembly. Program applicants will be required to submit a nonrefundable application fee of $50 with their applications. Successful applicants will be required to pay additional program fees.

Grower applications must be postmarked or received by the KDA marketing office no later than November 14, 2016 at 4:30 p.m. EST. Processor or handler applicants are encouraged to submit their applications by November 14, 2016 at 4:30 p.m. EST.

For more information, including the 2017 Policy Guide and a downloadable application, go to kyagr.com/hemp.

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Legalizing Weed: 4 Agricultural Benefits of Industrial Hemp Cultivation

By Andrea Miller   |   Tuesday, 01 Dec 2015 06:56 PM

As legalizing weed becomes more and more prevalent among U.S. states, industrial hemp cultivation is one such change that has the potential to benefit the farming industry.
For agriculture to continue to be a viable industry in the U.S., profound change is needed in order to bolster economic opportunity for farmers. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, there were 6.8 million farms in the nation in 1935. Today, there are just 2.2 million farms even as the population has increased, and many principal farm owners and/or operators are older than age 60.
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Here are four agricultural benefits of industrial hemp cultivation:
1. Hemp can serve as an alternative to tobacco. As more Americans quit smoking and fewer young people start, tobacco is no longer a viable product for many farmers. One study conducted by the University of Kentucky, reported by the North American Industrial Hemp Council, found that industrial hemp has the potential to become the most profitable crops for the state second only to tobacco, and may be able to serve as an alternative crop for tobacco farmers whose product is no longer in demand.
2. There are production advantages for farmers who grow hemp. This hardy plant is less susceptible to fluctuations in weather and other environmental conditions than other plants, such as cotton. This means that farmers are more likely to profit from their investment in an industrial hemp crop, and are able to grow a substantial amount of hemp in a relatively small acreage. Experts also note that an industrial hemp crop requires minimal maintenance compared to output.
3. Industrial hemp crops help to enrich the soil. A boon for any farmer, the growth pattern of this plant naturally creates more nutrient-rich soil. Because the dense leaves block sunlight, few weeds grow among industrial hemp crops. The deep roots of the plants provide nitrogen and other minerals to the earth, while reducing the salinity of the groundwater and minimizing topsoil erosion. In addition, this crop is ideal for composting to grow other plants, such as wheat or soy.
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4. Industrial hemp is a profitable rotation crop. While the rotation crop system is often necessary for sustainable agriculture, few of these crops are truly profitable. However, industrial hemp not only makes an excellent rotation crop because of the features listed in the previous item, but because of the huge U.S. market for the plant, farmers may be able to keep businesses running that would have not otherwise survived.

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The Great Kentucky Hemp Experiment

By Jessica Firger 10/11/15 at 10:05 AM

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Above:  Western Kentucky University senior Corinn Sprigler helps harvest hemp plants at the WKU Farm in Bowling Green, Kentucky, in September 2014. Hemp potentially could be much more lucrative than tobacco if universities and farmers taking part in the Industrial Hemp Research Program, established by James Comer, Kentucky’s commissioner of agriculture, continue to hone their skills cultivating the crop. Bac To Trong/Daily News/AP

Filed Under: U.S., Hemp, farming, Agriculture, Kentucky

The Shell Farms & Greenhouses is an expansive 1,000-acre property in Garrard County, 37 miles south of Lexington, Kentucky. The five-generation family farm is operated by 31-year-old Giles Shell and his 60-year-old father, Gary. The two are whizzes at making ornamental flowers flourish, and like most farmers in the area, the family has grown tobacco for years.

In late June, the younger Shell stood outside one of six greenhouses on the farm and held up a yellowed tobacco plant with limp rootstock. The Shells know how to save sickly tobacco plants like this one, but they don’t want to anymore. “I’m hoping it’s our last crop,” Shell said.

Along the winding back roads of Central Kentucky’s bluegrass country, horses and cows graze on lush plains. For decades, tobacco helped farmers here keep their families clothed and fed. But that’s changing. Tobacco production facilities have slowly migrated to North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee due to consolidation within the industry, which has resulted in an ever-shrinking demand for the crop in Kentucky. There’s a replacement crop starting to come in, though: The Shell greenhouses that once nurtured thousands of tobacco plants are now home to 3,200 industrial hemp plants.

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hemp_1

Hemp Rescues Kentucky’s Flailing Agriculture Industry

As demand for tobacco diminishes, the state’s farmers are turning to growing cannabis—but not the kind you smoke. slideshow

It’s been close to 70 years since anyone in Kentucky—or anywhere in the U.S.—attempted to legally cultivate industrial hemp in massive quantities. But today, the Shells and other skilled farmers are taking up the cash crop yet again, under the auspices of the five-year pilot Industrial Hemp Research Program, established by James Comer, Kentucky’s commissioner of agriculture, which vets and licenses farmers in the state.

Shifting gears so dramatically hasn’t been easy. The biggest problem is the learning curve: Hemp isn’t tobacco, which means it’s unlike the crop farmers in the area are most familiar with. A major component of the pilot project has involved figuring out the optimal way to make the plant flourish in a much rainier environment than California or Colorado, where most cannabis is currently grown. Farmers have experimented with a number of techniques: covering the beds to prevent over-watering (as you would, for example, with tomatoes) and growing cuttings in flower pots (as they do with ornamental flowers).

And there’s another undeniable challenge: Industrial hemp is really just a few genetic tweaks away from marijuana and outsiders often don’t know one from the other. “When the stuff really starts to flower it has the same look and smell as marijuana. That’s why we have security” to contend with potential plant thieves, says Shell.

The difference between the two cannabis sativa plants is the level of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive chemical compound in the plant that’s responsible for causing the high. In order for cannabis to be considered industrial hemp, it must contain THC levels less than 0.3 percent; any more and the plant has officially crossed over into weed territory.

Currently all cannabis sativa—whether grown to ease chronic pain, get stoned or make rope—is a schedule I controlled substance, a result of the Controlled Substances Act passed by Congress in 1970, though state marijuana laws have changed some of the classifications at local levels. This is viewed as unfortunate by marijuana activists, but also by many in the agriculture industry, including Comer. He hopes to single-handedly turn industrial hemp into Kentucky’s No. 1 cash crop—and in the process, breathe new life into family farms that have lost millions of dollars with the fall of the tobacco industry.

Most industrial hemp is grown in China. With the right processing methods, the highly versatile plant can provide several notable revenue streams. Cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical compound in the plant, can be extracted from the leaves, blossoms and stems for medicinal and nutraceutical purposes. Cannabis oil derived from cold-pressing seeds is a healthful alternative to the oils sitting on most kitchen shelves, and it is already used in a number of cosmetic and beauty products. Other genetic variants of the plant are cultivated to produce fiber that can substitute for cotton, wood and plastic—a more sustainable way to make everyday products ranging from T-shirts to particleboard and even car dashboards.

And then there’s the potential for food. Hemp seed—high in fiber, antioxidants, omega-3s and protein—has a mild, nutty taste akin to flax. With the right marketing it could become the industry’s next superfood. It would also make for nutrient-packed animal feed.

Kentucky has a long, but mostly forgotten, history of hemp farming. The Speed family, intimately close friends of Abraham Lincoln, were hemp farmers in the state, as was Henry Clay, the 19th century statesman. Kentucky led the U.S. industrial hemp business until the end of the Civil War, when production of the crop declined and was generally replaced by tobacco. The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 put the kibosh on all production and sales of cannabis, including industrial hemp, but the crop saw a rapid resurgence during World War II. Hemp fiber became essential to produce military necessities such as uniforms and parachutes. The U.S. Department of Agriculture launched its national "Hemp for Victory" program, which provided seeds and draft deferments to farmers. In 1942, farmers planted 36,000 acres of hemp seed. A USDA-funded informational film from that year noted that “hemp grows so luxuriantly in Kentucky that harvesting is sometimes difficult.”

With backing from Senator Rand Paul, Comer’s proposed legislation—Senate Bill 50—passed in 2013. It created a regulatory framework for farmers to legally grow hemp in the state. In addition, Paul and Comer were able to get a provision added to the federal Farm Bill that legalized hemp production in states like Kentucky that had programs set up to grow the crop. The bill was signed by President Obama in 2014.

10_16_Hemp_02 Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky has backed the efforts of Comer to return hemp to its historical position as one of the Bluegrass State’s cash crops. Its history in Kentucky includes even Abraham Lincoln, whose in-laws grew hemp, as well as Henry Clay, the 19th century statesman. Kentucky led the U.S. industrial hemp business until the end of the Civil War, when production of the crop declined and was replaced by tobacco. Carlos Barria/Reuters

Though state and federal lawmakers support the efforts, Comer says it hasn’t been easy for Kentucky’s agriculture department or any of the farmers in the pilot program. Last year was the first for Kentucky’s pilot program, but it yielded only 33.4 acres of industrial hemp in the state. The farmers were capable of growing much more, but the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has made it challenging, says Comer. The DEA’s cannabis eradication program provides funding to local law enforcement to form a SWAT team of “cowboys flying around in helicopters.” They have been known to sweep through private farms to confiscate the plants, and have even been known to mistake okra for marijuana.

Despite all this, the project has nearly doubled its hemp production this year, and at least 500 people in the state are now employed at it as a result. Comer says he hopes farmers will soon be able to grow at least 10,000 acres. “We want to be the Silicon Valley for industrial hemp,” he says. The state’s backcountry has already become fertile ground for startups like GenCanna Global, which has partnered with six local farms to grow hemp for CBD.

Matty Mangone-Miranda, GenCanna’s president and chief executive officer, and Chris Stubbs, its chief scientific officer, conducted early work to cultivate low-THC, high-CBD cannabis plants formerly called “hippie’s disappointment”—since it doesn’t cause a high—and now known as Charlotte’s Web. It’s produced by the Realm of Caring Foundation as a dietary supplement under federal law and as medical cannabis for sale in states that allow for its use. The story of Charlotte’s Web first came to public light in 2013, when CNN aired Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s documentary Weed, featuring Charlotte Figi, a 5-year-old with a rare refractory epilepsy disorder known as Dravet syndrome that caused her to have up to 300 seizures per week. The Figis were preparing to sign “do not resuscitate” forms for their daughter when a friend connected them with the founders of the company, and the girl gained nearly complete seizure control once she started ingesting the CBD oil.

After the CNN documentary ran, Realm of Caring couldn’t keep up with the resulting high demand, says Mangone-Miranda. They still have thousands of families on their waiting list. “The lack of supply of oil was a huge problem,” he explains. “For me, the logical solution was that we needed a massive, sustainable and reliable supply.” To solve the problem, GenCanna has invested in Kentucky’s farms with the goal of planting 200,000 plants that are genetically similar to Charlotte’s Web in 2015.

Now, GenCanna has an increasing list of companies looking to purchase CBD oil to develop novel products that have absolutely nothing to do with treating rare seizure disorders or making healthy granola. The company has received proposals for CBD-infused sports drinks, wine, beer, Listerine-type fresh breath strips and transdermal patches.

Over the summer, GenCanna, along with Atalo Holdings—another hemp cooperative—purchased a 147-acre former tobacco seed development and breeding facility in Winchester, Kentucky. Along with storage, processing, formulating and shipping buildings, their new Hemp Research Campus includes an over-8,000-square-foot laboratory with breeding rooms. The two companies hope the Hemp Campus will serve as an incubator for the industry, says Steve Bevan, GenCanna’s chief operating officer. “With the Hemp Campus we think we can bring more and smarter people here,” he says. GenCanna and other companies hope to plant their flags before imminent changes in federal and state cannabis regulations allow Big Pharma to enter the picture. “They’re going to throw money in a big way, so we want to understand as much as possible because we have a belief that this stuff is food.”

There is currently a bill in U.S. Congress that would reclassify hemp from a narcotic to an agricultural crop. If the law were to pass, it would minimize the red tape for established hemp farming programs. For example, says Comer, “we won’t have to send staff to a field to do GPS coordinates and then get that information to the state police and all this bureaucracy.”

Despite the regulations and red tape, industrial hemp has already been a saving grace for some of the farmers in the pilot program. The Halverson family, for example, was preparing to shutter their operation, which primarily grew ornamental plants, until GenCanna approached them. The company offered to pay the rent for their property, cover all expenses upfront—including a refurbishing of the greenhouse—and provide salaries to the family and a staff of more than 20. One condition: They would turn all their energies to cultivating hemp and work with GenCanna to learn how to grow this complicated plant and find a way to breed the best version of the plant that is stronger and more aggressive.

hemp_8 Tobacco farmers only earn the equivalent of about 4 cents per pack of cigarettes. It’s still uncertain how much revenue hemp will bring into Kentucky’s agriculture business but the farming community is hopeful. Jessica Firger for Newsweek

In the beginning, the Halversons were skeptical. The family are Sabbath-keeping Christians, and it was hard to know what their neighbors would think. But by that time the family had run out of money and options other than to close the farm. So they went for it.

At first, they were the subject of the weekly gossip at church. “You get to finishing some choral music, and then the conversation after is ‘Are you guys really growing that stuff?’” says Mikkel Halverson. “We feel that growing hemp is more than just work—it is a way we can help those in need. It is part of a healing ministry.” Now, the Halversons’ 36,000-square-foot greenhouse overflows with thousands of hemp plants.

Halverson knows he could probably make a lot more money if he grew the type of cannabis that gets people high, but his family has decided they will not grow a version of hemp that could potentially be smoked, no matter how skilled they become at farming the crop. “I think God made all of the plants,” he says. ”But we’re going to stick with CBD hemp.”

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County’s 1st hemp seeds of 2015 planted

More, bigger plots coming, advocate says

  • By Eli Pace, New Era editor

 

 

 

If last year’s industrial hemp planting was a trial run, this year Christian County hemp farmers are going all out with what’s expected to be 85 total acres of the crop spread across four local pilot projects.

The first pilot went into the ground Friday at Jeff Davis’ Pembroke farm, said Katie Moyer, a local hemp advocate who’s been heavily involved in the push to legalize the crop, which can be used to make everything from paper to plastics.

“It was actually done in record time,” Moyer said of Davis’ second hemp planting. “He got the seed Friday and planted Friday evening.”

Winner of the chamber’s 2015 Famer of the Year award, Davis planted a half-acre of hemp last year on his 1,300-acre farm. This time, according to Moyer, he put down about five acres’ worth of seeds on a different strip of land.

That’s a small chunk of the roughly 85 acres that’s expected to be planted across the four local pilots, but depending on how far the seed goes, Moyer said, the actual acreage could be a little more or a little less.

Compared to the two half-acre pilots planted last year in Christian County, that’s quite the step up.

“Yeah, big time,” Moyer said.

If everything goes according to plan, seed for the largest of the Christian County hemp pilots could be planted as early as Tuesday. When the seeds sprout, the crop should be visible from the Pennyrile Parkway at the Crofton interchange.

“This one is going to be very big and very visible,” Moyer said, adding that, because of media coverage and increased hemp awareness, more and more Kentucky farmers are showing interest in the crop.

“People really had an opportunity to see what was going on (last year). It’s like a snowball effect. We’re definitely a lot busier now than we were last year.”

In line with that growth, Moyer and a handful of individuals have formed a new company called “Legacy Hemp.”

Reached over the phone Monday, Moyer said she was working on filing the necessary paperwork with the Kentucky Secretary of State for what is to be a certified seed breeder that’s being created to sell hemp seed to Kentucky farmers and facilitate some of the processing that’s involved with taking the crop to market. A company website is in the works.

“Because everything is so new, we’re really feeling things out,” she said.

Moyer explained that, more than anything, she hopes people realize industrial hemp is not marijuana.

The two are related plant species, but hemp contains only trace amounts of THC, the chemical that can register as high as 30 percent or more in marijuana and produces intoxicating effects in humans.

Because of the high visibility of this year’s crops, Moyer also said she hopes any would-be pot users don’t make the mistake of thinking hemp is an illicit crop, try to smoke it or steal any of the hemp plants to sell for a profit.

Reach Eli Pace at 270-887-3235 or epace@kentuckynewera.com.

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In the next few days, the (HEMP) seeds will finally arrive to Kentucky

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer says it’s been a long road to bring back industrial hemp.

 

marijuana leaf

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.

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