LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The Kentucky hemp industry has been growing so quickly, farmers and processors say federal regulators are lagging behind.
Legalized in the 2018 Farm Bill, state officials say there's already $100 million worth of industrial hemp being grown and processed into products in Kentucky without some of the most basic regulatory framework.
“There’s no set standard method nationwide for each state to be able to use analytical testing for testing hemp crop,” John Taylor, Commonwealth Extracts COO, said.
Commonwealth Extracts of Louisville produces hemp/CBD extracts used in consumer products.
The company and others appealed to visitors Sen. Mitch McConnell and USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue to get federal agencies to catch up when it comes to pesticides and transportation.
They also want banks and creditors to get with the times.
“This new crop is kind of conflated with its illegal cousin in many states -- being cannabis,” Secretary Perdue said. “And the financial industry has to accept that this is a legal crop.”
A thousand Kentucky farmers planted industrial hemp in 101 of 120 counties this year, according to Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles.
“Last year, $18 million was paid to Kentucky farmers when we had about 211 farmers growing it,” Quarles said. “This year, we’ve approved close to 60,000 acres to be attempted in Kentucky. And of that, we can expect sometimes 200, 300 and in some cases 500 percent growth in different categories of the crop.”
McConnell compared the potential to the state’s historic cash crop: tobacco.
“I think that shows you there’s a lot of interest,” McConnell said. “We don’t know if this will be the next tobacco or not. But a whole lot of interest and as the Secretary pointed out, we’re the lead here.”
Farmers said they are overdue for word on what kinds of pesticides are allowed for a consumable crop like hemp and FDA guidance is needed to tell manufacturers how to properly produce and label their products.
The FDA and the EPA are both expected to produce new regulations soon.