The Kentucky Department of Agriculture has recently revealed that they have approved 2.9 million square feet of land area and greenhouse space for the cultivation of hemp. The increasing number of approved acres just shows how Kentucky is fast becoming the epicenter of the hemp industry in the US. With the approval of the 2018 Farm Bill, many experts believe that Kentucky is more than ready to become the leader in the commercialization of the crop in the United States.
Increasing the Number of License Applications
The Kentucky Department of Agriculture received a total number of 1,115 applications. This consisted of 41 processor and handler applications and 1,074 grower applications. From these applications, they approved 40 new applications from those applying for a license to process or handle hemp. This is on top of the 69 applications that they had previously approved. Several universities in the state are also applying for a license to carry out hemp-related research projects in 2019.
Hemp as an Agricultural Crop
Late last year, hemp became a legitimate agricultural crop. This was after the approval of the Federal Farm Bill that removed the crop from the list of federally controlled substances. For several decades, hemp was considered illegal because of its close link to cannabis. However, hemp only contains a very small amount of THC, which is the psychoactive compound responsible for making users high.
Hemp received mainstream support in Kentucky when Mitch McConnell, one of the state’s most prominent political leaders, led the push for the legalization of hemp in Congress last year. Now that the crop has been legalized, hemp growers can acquire crop insurance, apply for grants and loans, and even declare their business expenses when they file their taxes.
Acquiring a License from KDA
In 2018, the KDA licensed 210 growers to cultivate more than 16,000 acres of industrial hemp. However, they only used around 6,700 acres of land area. The participants of the KDA hemp program cultivated 922 acres in 2015, 2,350 in 2016, and 3,200 acres in 2017.
Entrepreneurs and individuals who want to cultivate and process industrial hemp have to acquire a license from the KDA. Under the law passed by the United States Congress and the Kentucky General Assembly, it’s illegal to possess raw or unprocessed hemp, hemp seeds, or hemp plants without a license, which the KDA will issue.
Those applying for a license for the KDA hemp program should pass background checks. Furthermore, they must consent to have the program staff and law enforcement officials conduct an inspection in their premises or any area where the hemp will be cultivated, handled, processed, and stored. Under the law of the state, the Kentucky Dept. of Agriculture must provide coordinates of the approved areas for hemp cultivation to the law enforcement officers before the hemp is cultivated. Thus, growers must indicate the GPS coordinates on their application and only when their application is approved, they can start growing or processing hemp.