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Kentucky becomes first state to request USDA approval of hemp program

Updated: Jan 17, 2019

Kentucky is the first state to submit a hemp program plan to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for approval as required in the 2018 Agricultural Act of Improvement (Farm bill).

Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles attended the presidential farm bill signing ceremony in Washington on December 20th, where he personally delivered the Commonwealth’s regulatory framework for hemp production to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.


Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles was invited to attend the signing ceremony for the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized hemp. Afterwards, Commissioner Quarles personally delivered Kentucky's state hemp plan to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, left.


“Kentucky’s regulatory framework perfectly aligns with the requirements spelled out in the farm bill,” Commissioner Quarles said. “Hemp growers, processors, and manufacturers deserve swift action so they can proceed with confidence. Kentucky has led the charge on industrial hemp with bipartisan support for the past five years. Now we are eager to take the next step toward solidifying Kentucky’s position as the epicenter of industrial hemp production and processing in the United States.”

The 2018 Farm Bill removes industrial hemp from the federal Controlled Substances Act and gives hemp growers access to USDA programs such as crop insurance. It also assigns regulatory authority of industrial hemp to the states and establishes minimum requirements that a state regulatory framework must meet for approval.

“The farm bill maintains and enhances important protections for grain and dairy farmers who have endured low commodity prices for the past five years,” Commissioner Quarles said. “It also locks in funding for the Market Access Program, which helps farmers and agribusinesses sell American products abroad, and animal health programs to protect our livestock from disease outbreaks. We appreciate the work of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Congressman James Comer on the conference committee to get a farm bill that serves the needs of Kentucky agriculture.”


Individuals and businesses must be licensed by the Department of Agriculture to grow or process industrial hemp in Kentucky. The KDA received more than 1,000 applications to participate in the state’s industrial hemp research pilot program in 2019. An informational and networking session in October in Elizabethtown attracted some 750 farmers, processors, manufacturers, educators, and others interested in participating in the program.

Participants in the 2018 program grew more than 6,700 acres of industrial hemp, the most in the five-year history of the program and more than double the acreage grown in 2017. Kentucky licensed processors paid Kentucky growers $7.5 million for harvested hemp in 2017 and reported $25.6 million in capital improvements and investments and $16.7 million in gross product sales.

Under Kentucky’s industrial hemp research pilot program, the KDA works closely with state and local law enforcement officers and provides GPS coordinates of approved industrial hemp planting, processing, and storage sites to law enforcement before any hemp is planted. Participants also must pass background checks and 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.


Read Kentucky Department of Agriculture

Press Release here:

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