Kentucky’s great hemp hope

In industrial hemp, the state of Rand Paul and Wendell Berry sees a solution to its post-agrarian ills

November 12, 2014 5:00AM ET

by Michael Ames @mirkel

Mike Lewis hemp

Mike Lewis, a farmer who employs veterans on his farm, was recruited by Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer to join the state’s hemp crusade.

MOUNT VERNON, Ky. — Mike Lewis doesn’t want to talk about marijuana. He is an organic farmer, the son of a retired federal agent, and he follows the law. 

"If you’re gonna talk about drugs, you’re going to have to leave my property," he said to the group of entrepreneurs and activists who had traveled to central Kentucky to see his farm, one of the few legal, private hemp operations in the country. The threat sounded serious, and with it, Lewis had everyone’s attention. "We’re here today to talk about building an industry."

The most progressive cannabis program in the United States won’t get anyone stoned. But while officials in Colorado and Washington state await the results (and reap millions in taxes) of their drug-legalization experiments, conservative Kentucky has launched an ambitious and industrious project devoted to the ancient, controversial plants. Marijuana remains illegal here, but with industrial hemp, a non-psychoactive cannabis varietal with dozens of commercial uses, the state sees a different kind of salvation, an old-fashioned agrarian answer to a variety of 21st-century American ills.

Seven university-affiliated grow sites in the state, spread from the Mississippi valley in the west to the Appalachian east, are researching hemp’s potentials. Eastern Kentucky University is studying bio-fuels. Manufacturers are talking up hemp-based car parts and hempcrete, a biodegradable construction material. Bio-chemical engineers in Louisville will test the plant’s capacity to remediate the city’s toxic dumps. In struggling Appalachia, where thousands of families were wiped out when the federal government ended its tobacco subsidies, small farmers are wondering whether hemp can fill an economic vacuum. Wherever Kentucky has a problem, it seems industrial hemp has an answer.

The initiative was launched by the state’s agriculture commissioner, Republican James Comer, who ran for the office (an influential position in a predominately rural state), largely on his hemp visions.

"We thought he was crazy," recalled Holly Harris, who served as general counsel for the state GOP during Comer’s 2011 campaign. "The party chatter was, ‘This guy is crazy.’" But after Comer won that race — the only Kentucky Republican elected to statewide office that year — Harris was hired as his chief of staff and witnessed what she described as the most wild and memorable political experience of her career.

The conventional wisdom was that hemp was a political nonstarter, a fringe concern better fit for liberal states like Colorado or Washington, where marijuana prohibition was already being phased out. The conservative-led coalition that gathered around Comer’s agenda destroyed those assumptions. U.S. Sen. Rand Paul was instrumental, recruiting a delegation to testify in support of the state’s legalization measure; the group included Louisville Democrat John Yarmuth, libertarian conservative Thomas Massie and former Central Intelligence Agency director James Woolsey. When Paul spoke at the hearing on Senate Bill 50, he wore his favorite button-down hemp shirt. In Washington, then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, also of Kentucky, amended the 2014 farm bill to permit the plan under federal law. As the legal and political hurdles fell, Comer revived the long-moribund state Industrial Hemp Commission, a committee of stakeholders and experts responsible for getting the industry off the ground. Funding arrived from RandPAC (Paul’s political action committee) on the right, and from a standard hippie culture staple, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps. The two organizations provide the entirety of the commission’s budget.

Kentucky is not entirely alone in the legalization movement. Lawmakers in many rural states are frustrated by the fact that, while it’s perfectly legal to sell hemp products made in other countries, federal law denies independent farmers the right to grown their own. In recent years, more than a dozen states have passed legislation that, to varying degrees, allows colleges, universities, and state agriculture agencies to research, grow and market the plant. Comer, however, took the additional step of licensing farmers like Lewis as state contractors, something no other state has done. In Colorado, farmers are allowed to grow the crop, but “it’s more like don’t ask don’t tell,” said Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp, the industries chief lobbying group. Kentucky, he said, “pushed the envelope and are letting farmers do commercial activity as research.”

It’s been less than five months since Lewis planted his first seeds, and he said that he is currently in talks with more than a dozen manufacturing companies interested in processing hemp for a dizzying range of commercial and industrial applications, including health supplements, building insulation and bedding for Kentucky thoroughbreds. He said that a plastics company, which did not want to be named, is interested in processing hemp fibers into durable car paneling, a practice that European automakers have been using for years.

"We saw there is real opportunity," Lewis said. "We want to work with these people to create products, to drive dollars into the local economy." At this point, with so much energy and promise, Lewis "suffers from the oppression of opportunity." His biggest problem, he said, "is managing expectations."

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UK Harvests First Hemp Crop, Expects to Learn Much from Data

University of Kentucky researchers today harvested the university’s first hemp crop in decades – and one of the first legal crops used in research trials.

“It was a good growing season for many crops, not just hemp,” said David Williams, UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment agronomist and co-project lead. “Precipitation was excellent this year and more than adequate for growth. The only downside to the growing season was that we planted a little bit late, but I don’t think that had much effect on the crop.”

UK’s research plot, planted May 27, was one of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s pilot studies to reintroduce hemp production in Kentucky. UK’s study was conducted in conjunction with Eastern Kentucky University and Kentucky State University.

“This crop will yield significant data about production techniques, which varieties do best in Kentucky and which of the many uses of hemp are most likely to succeed here,” said Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, who has championed the cause of returning hemp production to the commonwealth.

Kentucky was a national leader in hemp production before the crop was outlawed in the United States due to its similarity to marijuana. Many agricultural advances have occurred since then, so research trials were necessary to determine the crop’s viability in an ever-changing agricultural economy.

UK researchers used a sickle bar mower to harvest the crop in the same manner that hay is harvested.

“Our plan was to simply lay the crop on the ground where the elements will begin to break down or ‘ret’ the hemp,” said Rich Mundell, co-project lead and an agronomist in the Kentucky Tobacco Research Development Center. “Because the hemp was very tall (about 10 feet) we felt the sickle bar mower would do a better job than a more commonly used disc mower.”

UK’s research project included 13 different varieties managed for either fiber production or seed production.

After the harvest, researchers will analyze and compare the different varieties to find one that’s best suited for the state and then present the results to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.

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Hemp Crops Are Flourishing in Kentucky

 

 

 

Posted by: admin Posted date: August 04, 2014 In: News

After a nonsensical battle simply to get the seeds into the arms of farmers in the Bluegrass State, hemp crops are lastly on the develop.

Kentucky’s first crop of hemp in many years is claimed to be flourishing simply two months after the state formally legalized the plant genus for cultivation and analysis functions.

College of Kentucky’s plant researcher David Williams says the cultivation course of is “thrilling” and that the expertise is “very enjoyable”. “It’s numerous enjoyable to be concerned in one thing that’s new and probably potential for Kentucky farmers,” Williams avowed.

Williams says that he’ll harvest the primary crops at his faculty’s plots this September and examine the expansion price to that of 12 different varieties they’re at present rising out.

He additionally was fast to level out that the wrestle to get the seeds the place they wanted to be value them roughly a month of rising time.

“I feel we will develop bigger crops with a full rising season,” Williams defined. “We misplaced a few month.”

Researchers on the school of Murray State declare they’ve crops reaching heights of roughly 14 ft.

Whereas in Japanese Kentucky’s Rockcastle County, the Rising Warriors Undertaking planted hemp on an previous tobacco farm and has reported crops which have reached the sixteen-foot mark.

Ah sure. Hemp is on the develop as soon as once more in the South! How candy it’s!

Source

Kentucky AG Jack Conway Gives the OK to Begin Growing Hemp

By Joe Corcoran

Six universities in Kentucky may now begin growing legal hemp this year. Agriculture Commissioner James Comer told Kentucky Public Radio his office has received the go-ahead from the Attorney General’s office to begin pilot projects with the plant.

Those projects were made possible by last year’s state legislation providing a regulatory framework and a provision inserted in a recent federal farm bill. Comer says his office will begin immediately to finalize regulations concerning the growth and production of hemp.

The chair of Eastern Kentucky University’s Agriculture Department, Dr. John Settimi, says one drawback is the availability of seeds since there have been no legal sources in the U. S. for decades.

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Canadian company eyes Ky. for possible hemp plant

By BRUCE SCHREINER
Associated Press

 

 

Header

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A Canadian hemp processor looking to expand operations south of the border sees Kentucky as fertile territory for production and processing, but its top executive said Wednesday that questions about the crop’s legality have to be resolved first.

Hemp Oil Canada Inc. President and CEO Shaun Crew said the Bluegrass state is in the running for a possible plant in the U.S. to process hemp seeds. The company would look to contract with area farmers to supply seeds to the plant, he said.

The company, based in a town south of Winnipeg, is looking at other states including North Dakota, Minnesota, Colorado and California for the potential expansion, he said.

Crew, who visited Kentucky recently to meet with officials, said the state’s central location and heritage of hemp production would be advantages.

"This underscores what’s out there potentially," said Holly Harris VonLuehrte, chief of staff to state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer.

The crop flourished in Kentucky until it was banned decades ago when the federal government classified it as a controlled substance related to marijuana. Hemp has a negligible content of THC, the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana users a high.

Before the company expands production into the U.S., there needs to be certainty that the plant is legal, Crew said.

"The whole situation on the political end, until that’s resolved it’s difficult to make any commitments at this stage of the game," he said in a phone interview.

"We need to have the legal framework in place for not only ourselves but so the growers have some confidence that if they put in a crop, they’re not going to have the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) swoop in and cut it down and burn it."

Kentucky lawmakers passed a bill this year to allow industrial hemp to be reintroduced, but only if the federal government lifts its ban.

The state’s attorney general, Jack Conway, recently warned that if farmers plant industrial hemp in Kentucky next spring, they would be violating federal law and could be criminally prosecuted. Conway indicated he issued the advisory to state leaders, largely to protect farmers who might mistakenly believe it’s OK to grow the plant.

Comer, a leading industrial hemp supporter, argues that Kentucky law allows the crop and that the federal government doesn’t plan to prosecute to enforce its law. Comer says hemp could give an economist boost for Kentucky. The plant’s fiber and seeds can be turned into products ranging from paper to biofuels.

"Why in the world everybody wouldn’t want to jump on board for this is beyond Commissioner Comer," VonLuehrte said Wednesday.

Hemp supporters say their efforts to reintroduce the crop were strengthened by the federal government’s response to Washington and Colorado, which legalized the recreational use of marijuana last fall. The U.S. Department of Justice recently said it would not interfere as long as the states create tight rules.

Hemp Oil Canada’s products include hemp seed oil, toasted hemp seeds and hemp powders and flours. Its top markets are in Canada and the U.S., Crew said.

A new processing plant would likely start with about a half-dozen employees with the goal of expanding, Crew said. The plan would be to contract with area farmers to supply hemp seeds, he said. The company’s contract farmers in Canada typically net about $300 to $500 per acre, after production costs, he said.

Comer doesn’t expect large-scale grain farmers to shift to industrial hemp, but the crop holds potential for farmers with smaller operations, VonLuehrte said.

Crew said he sees tremendous growth potential for hemp products in the U.S. if the legal issues about the plant are resolved.

"U.S. legalization of growing industrial hemp brings so much more legitimacy to the market," he said. "I think the opportunities would flourish after that."

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Ky.’s senators blocked in effort to legalize hemp

By BRUCE SCHREINER, Associated Press

 

 

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky’s U.S. senators suffered a setback Thursday in their efforts to re-establish industrial hemp as a legal crop, but they vowed to continue their campaign after getting blocked as they tried to attach hemp language to the Senate farm bill.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul said they would oppose the Senate farm legislation.

Their amendment would have removed federal restrictions on the domestic production of industrial hemp. The crop once flourished in Kentucky until it was banned decades ago when the federal government classified it as a controlled substance related to marijuana.

Hemp has a negligible content of THC, the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana users a high.

The push by McConnell and Paul to legalize industrial hemp comes after Kentucky’s legislature passed a bill this year to allow the crop to be reintroduced in the Bluegrass State, but only if the federal government lifted its prohibition on the plant.

"Although we’re disappointed in the lack of consideration of our industrial hemp amendment, it is only the beginning of our legislative efforts," the Republican U.S. senators said in a joint statement. "We are committed to continuing to look at all options to win approval of this important legislation for job creation in Kentucky."

McConnell and Paul blamed majority-Senate Democrats for blocking consideration of additional amendments to the five-year farm bill, including their hemp proposal.

"This year’s Senate farm bill is in need of serious improvement and the refusal to allow better ideas and more sensible allocations of taxpayer dollars to be considered is very disappointing," McConnell and Paul said. "We will be opposing the Senate farm bill as a result."

The Courier-Journal first reported the senators’ reaction to the hemp amendment’s setback.

The farm bill advanced on a 75-22 procedural Senate vote Thursday that sets up a vote to pass the measure next Monday. The bill would cost almost $100 billion annually and would set policy for farm subsidies, food stamps and other farm and food aid programs.

Republican House leaders have said their chamber will vote on the bill, possibly as soon as this month.

In Kentucky, the industrial hemp movement has firmly taken root as the plant’s advocates hope for a breakthrough at the federal level.

State Agriculture Commissioner James Comer says its reintroduction would give farmers a new crop and would create processing jobs to turn the fiber and seeds into products ranging from paper to biofuels. Dozens of countries already produce the crop.

Comer went to Washington to meet with federal officials to lobby for a change on hemp policy at the federal level.

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear let the state’s hemp bill become law without his signature. The Democratic governor said he wouldn’t sign the legislation out of concerns, shared by some in law enforcement, that marijuana growers could camouflage their illegal crops with hemp plants.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Ky-s-senators-blocked-in-effort-to-legalize-hemp-4584896.php#ixzz2VUQvurVc

U.S. congressmen, former CIA director to testify in support of Kentucky hemp bill

Staff report

hemp

Industrial hemp is a fiber and oil seed crop

with a wide variety of uses. Hemp fibers

have been used to manufacture hundreds

of products that include twine, paper,

construction materials, carpeting and clothing.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, U.S. Reps. John Yarmuth and Thomas Massie, former Director of Central Intelligence R. James Woolsey (of the Clinton Administration), and Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer will testify next week in support of an industrialized hemp bill.

Industrial hemp is a fiber and oil seed crop with a wide variety of uses. Hemp fibers have been used to manufacture hundreds of products that include twine, paper, construction materials, carpeting and clothing.

The Senate Agriculture Committee will hear the testimony Monday, Feb. 11 at 11 a.m. in Room 131 of the Capitol Annex in Frankfort. Senate Bill 50, sponsored by Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, establishes a framework to re-introduce industrial hemp into Kentucky’s agri-economy if and when the federal government acts to legalize it.

Immediately following the vote on SB 50, the group will move to Room 154 of the Capitol Annex to take questions from the media.

The bill has support from several groups and legislators. Its biggest critics are Operation UNITE, the Kentucky Narcotic Officers’ Association and the Kentucky Association of Chiefs of Police.

Operation UNITE said industrial hemp production in Kentucky is not economically sound, that it would impose an unnecessary financial burden on the state and could facilitate future efforts to legalize its cousin – marijuana. Police groups also say the legalization and growth of hemp in Kentucky would impede law enforcement officers’ marijuana eradication efforts, because “the plants are indistinguishable to the eye,” said Tommy Loving, executive director of the Kentucky Narcotic Officers’ Association.

The Kentucky Industrialized Hemp Commission says Kentucky has the perfect climate and soil to produce industrial hemp, and the farmers to grow it. Comer believes the crop could be a great economic boon to Kentucky.

The group recently commissioned an economic impact study to be performed by the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. It hopes such a study could have an impact on the discussion at the federal level to legalize industrial hemp.

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U.S. Representative Massie Introduces Industrial Hemp Bill

For Immediate Release
Contact:

Wednesday February 6, 2013
(202) 225-3465

U.S. Representative Massie
Introduces Industrial Hemp Bill

“Industrial hemp is a sustainable crop and could be a great economic opportunity for Kentucky farmers”

WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Thomas Massie (R-KY) introduced federal legislation that requires the federal government to respect state laws allowing the growing of industrial hemp. H.R. 525, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013, amends the Controlled Substances Act to exclude industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana. Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) is a co-sponsor of the bill in the U.S. House. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) are supporting a similar bill in the U.S. Senate.
“Industrial hemp is a sustainable crop and could be a great economic opportunity for Kentucky farmers,” said Rep. Massie.  “My wife and I are raising our children on the tobacco and cattle farm where my wife grew up. Tobacco is no longer a viable crop for many of us in Kentucky and we understand how hard it is for a family farm to turn a profit.  Industrial hemp will give small farmers another opportunity to succeed.”

On the federal level, Rep. Massie is taking the lead in Congress as the original sponsor of industrial hemp legislation. Also, this week Massie will testify before the Kentucky legislature along with other members of Kentucky’s federal delegation and Kentucky’s Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer in support of a related state bill.
Kentucky was a leading producer of the world’s industrial hemp supply during America’s early years as a nation. It is used in hundreds of products including paper, lotions, clothing, canvas, rope, and can be converted into renewable bio-fuels more efficiently than corn or switch grass. Critics of industrial hemp mistakenly equate it to marijuana.  The plants are cousins in the cannabis family but industrial hemp contains very small amounts of the intoxicant (THC) found in marijuana, making it ineffective as a drug.  Hemp is grown in over 30 western nations including Canada, England and France.

H.R. 525 has 28 original co-sponsors in the House, including House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson (D-MN). Massie co-sponsored a similar bill in the 112th Congress.

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Caudill Seed becoming poster child for hemp legalization

Pat Caudill, left, is pictured with Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and Dan Caudill. The Caudill brothers are co-owners of Caudill Seed Co.






        hemp-300x200    3 types cannabis

Pat Caudill, left, is pictured with Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and Dan Caudill. The Caudill brothers are co-owners of Caudill Seed Co.

 
Kevin Eigelbach
Reporter- Business First
Email  | Follow Kevin on Twitter

Louisville-based Caudill Seed Co. is quickly becoming the poster child for the legalization of hemp production in Kentucky.

The company has been featured in a CBS News report, on WDRB-TV in Louisville and in several newspaper articles, with owners Dan Caudill and Pat Caudill explaining what they think a legal hemp crop would mean for Kentucky and their company.

The two became interested in the issue when they met James Comer, now Kentucky’s Secretary of Agriculture, during his 2011 campaign for the office. Legalizing hemp to give Kentucky farmers a new revenue stream is one of Comer’s priorities.

Because it has so many hills, Kentucky has a lot of land that’s only marginal for agriculture, Dan Caudill said in an interview. Hemp is an ideal crop for the state because it can grow nearly anywhere, just like tobacco.

Aside from farmers, the rest of the state would benefit if it could create hemp-processing facilities that would provide jobs, Caudill said. Hemp seeds can be processed into oil, and its tough fibers can be woven into fabrics to make clothes or entwined to make rope.

Every year, Caudill Seed imports from Brazil about 75 tractor/trailer loads of twine made from sisal that it distributes to farm retailers for bailing hay. The Caudill brothers would like to distribute rope made locally instead.

Chances of passage better than 50-50

The company expects to benefit from legalized hemp production in two ways, Dan Caudill said. It would be able to buy seed and sell it to farmers who want to grow hemp. And, it would process seed grown by Kentucky farmers and sell it to crushing companies that would extract the oil.

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