Organization zooms in on McCreary County for possible hemp agriculture
Recently, a McCreary County native returned home to encourage local officials and interested citizens to begin preparing now for the breakthrough of what he feels will soon become a major Kentucky industry-industrial hemp.
Adrian Drew Clark, media relations specialist for Hemp Industries of Kentucky, met with Judge Executive Doug Stephens and others to provide an overview of industrial hemp. Hemp Industries of Kentucky, according to its website, is an organization working to ensure that the reemergence of hemp in Kentucky is successful for Kentucky citizens. The organization’s work includes efforts to secure the best legislative language for the industry as well as educating potential growers, producers, and industry leaders on how to make the industry successful. Clark remarked his organization’s outreach to McCreary County is due to several factors.
“First,” Clark said with a grin. “I’m originally from here. I’d like to see McCreary County benefit economically from industrial hemp.”
Clark noted Kentucky has good growing conditions for hemp. He further explained McCreary County, with its capacity for small family farms and lack of competition from tobacco and soybean farmers, is an excellent location for an organization such as his to provide benefits without competition from other types of large scale farms. Clark also noted farms in McCreary County tend to be more spread out-thus reducing the possibility of cross pollination between different types of hemp (e.g. hemp used for oil, hemp used for fiber, etc.)
Clark emphasized Industrial hemp, although of the same plant species as Cannabis Sativa, can vary from the tall, lean plants harvested for fiber to the short, stocky plants grown for their extracts. Unlike cannabis, which averages about ten percent (or higher) THC compound levels, industrial hemp THC compound levels cap out at .3 percent as is mandated by federal law. Since THC is the psychoactive plant chemical responsible for the “high” feeling induced by marijuana, an individual cannot get enough of a “buzz” from industrial hemp. The amount of THC in industrial hemp is simply not enough to produce a “high.”
Since the hemp industry is strictly regulated through the state, growers must agree to random testing of their hemp crop to ensure that the THC limit of .3 percent is not compromised. Growers must agree to forfeit their crop if the limit is exceeded.
“There are definitely repercussions if someone sticks a marijuana plant in the middle of their hemp,” Clark declared. “Not only will they risk cross pollination and ruining their hemp crop, but they risk forfeiture of their crop and dealing with federal entities as well.”
Hemp farmers must be approved and get a permit through the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. The seeds for planting must also be obtained or approved by the state. Different types of hemp seed are supplied depending on the type of hemp harvest desired. Some types of hemp seed are better for harvesting hemp oil and extracts while others are more desirable for the harvest of fiber.
According to a Kentucky Department of Agriculture website, industrial hemp has many different uses including: fabrics, yarns, fiber, paper, carpeting, home furnishings, construction and insulation materials, auto parts, composites, animal bedding, foods, beverages, personal care products/cosmetics, oils, and pharmaceuticals. Clark stated Hemp Industries of Kentucky is focused primarily on raising hemp for the purpose of harvesting oil and chemical compounds for use by the nutraceutical industry.
“We are focused on hemp for the nutraceutical industry,” Clark stated. “Many of the chemical compounds (such as CBG, CBC, and CBD) in hemp are showing tremendous promise. In addition, they are non-synthetic and all natural. The nutraceutical aspect of industrial hemp is the biggest money maker and brings the biggest return for our farmers.”
Clark is hopeful McCreary Countians will show an interest in growing industrial hemp. By providing early awareness, education, and planning, Clark hopes several McCreary County farmers will be ready by fall to seek approval from KDA to begin growing hemp next spring.
Hemp is a full sun crop with no minimum acreage needed. A viable crop can be harvested on one to ten acres. Soil analysis is necessary to ensure there is no contamination. When growing hemp for oil, farmers can harvest two crops per year by planting a spring crop, a rotary crop for soil nutrition, and a late summer/fall crop. According to Clark, the future market value when growing hemp for oil is about $15 per pound. Based on that number and with an expected 1,800 to 2,000 pound yield per acre, farmers can expect to receive at least $30,000 per acre (not taking into account costs.)
Clark will host a second meeting in McCreary County in the near future. In addition to Clark, industry analyst, Martin Smith, will be present to answer specific questions about farming industrial hemp. More information can also be found at: ky-hemp.com.