Saturday, January 31, 2015
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Hemp homecoming: Rebirth sprouts in Kentucky

Food and Farm Kentucky Hemp

In this Aug. 1, 2014, photo, Tony L. Brannon, Murray State University's agriculture dean, shows hemp seeds taken from a plant at the school's research farm in Murray, Ky. Researchers and farmers are producing the state’s first legal hemp crop in generations. Hemp has turned into a political cause in the Bluegrass state. (AP Photo/Bruce Schreiner)

By
From page A6 | August 17, 2014 |

MURRAY, Ky. — Call it a homecoming for hemp: Marijuana’s non-intoxicating cousin is undergoing a rebirth in a state at the forefront of efforts to reclaim it as a mainstream crop.

Researchers and farmers are producing the first legal hemp crop in generations in Kentucky, where hemp has turned into a political cause decades after it was banned by the federal government. Republican U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul advocate for it, as does state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, a Republican who is running for governor next year.

The comeback is strictly small scale. Experimental hemp plots more closely resemble the size of large family gardens.

Statewide plantings totaled about 15 acres from the Appalachian foothills in eastern Kentucky to the broad stretches of farmland in the far west, said Adam Watson, the Kentucky Agriculture Department’s hemp program coordinator.

The crop’s reintroduction was delayed in the spring when imported hemp seeds were detained by U.S. customs officials. The state’s Agriculture Department sued the federal government, but dropped the case Friday after reaching an agreement on importing the seeds into Kentucky. The seeds were released after federal drug officials approved a permit.

Since then, test plots have shown the crop to be hardy and fast growing – and a potential moneymaker with a remarkable range of traditional uses including clothing, mulch, hemp milk, cooking oil, soap and lotions.

“What we’ve learned is it will grow well in Kentucky,” Comer said. “It yields a lot per acre. All the things that we predicted.”

At Murray State University, about 180 miles southwest of Louisville, plants have sprouted to at least 8 feet tall, turning a shade of green and yellow as they reach maturity. Harvest is approaching.

“It’s had a good growth period,” said Murray State agriculture dean Tony L. Brannon. “It appeared to tolerate the extremes in weather from extremely wet to extremely dry pretty well.”

Hemp’s roots in Kentucky date back to pioneer days and the towering stalks were once a staple at many farms.

“We’ve got an excellent climate for it, excellent soils for it,” Watson said. “It’s a good fit for Kentucky producers. The ultimate question is going to come down to economics. Is there a market and can Kentucky capture that?”

Growing hemp without a federal permit was banned in 1970 due to its classification as a controlled substance related to marijuana. Hemp and marijuana are the same species, Cannabis sativa, but hemp has a negligible amount of THC, the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana users a high.

Legal production of the crop has been gone for so long that it was a virtual blank slate in modern Kentucky agriculture.

Teams of researchers and farmers are studying which seed varieties and soil types are best suited and how much moisture or fertilizer are needed.

“There are a lot of unknowns,” Watson said. “It’s those sorts of answers that producers are going to need before they can turn it into an economically viable crop on their farms.”

For now, growing hemp is strictly limited. The federal farm bill enacted this year restricts hemp production to research projects designated by agriculture departments in states that allow the crop to be grown. But commercial uses are also emerging.

Fifteen states have removed barriers to hemp production, according to Vote Hemp, a group that advocates for the plant’s legal cultivation.

Licensed growers were able to secure seeds in three states – Kentucky, Colorado and Vermont – the group said, but difficulties in obtaining seeds limited production. According to Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp, the biggest obstacle was gaining approval from the Drug Enforcement Administration to import hemp seeds for planting.

In Vermont, about 12 farms registered to grow hemp, said Alison Kosakowski, a spokeswoman for the state’s Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets. The agency doesn’t know how many producers ended up planting a hemp crop.

The intentions were much bigger in Colorado. There were 56 registrations for commercial hemp production and 76 more for research and development, according to Ron Carleton, the state’s deputy agriculture commissioner.

Unavailability of seed likely kept “a fairly significant” number of applicants from getting hemp in the ground, he said. Some farmers able to produce a crop this year may harvest the seeds to grow next year’s crop, he said.

In Kentucky, the crop is being studied by researchers at a half-dozen universities.

Eastern Kentucky University researchers recently harvested their small hemp plot. Those plants reached 7 feet tall.

“It seems to be fairly easy to grow,” said EKU agriculture professor Bruce Pratt. “The plants got established so quickly that they shaded out the weeds.”

A 2013 report by the Congressional Research Service pegged hemp imports at $11.5 million in 2011, a tiny sum relative to other imported crops.

If widespread U.S. production is someday allowed, states able to attract processors close to where the crop is grown will be the winners, said University of Kentucky agricultural economist Will Snell.

“It’s a small, niche market, but it’s growing,” he said. “We can grow it. The problem is, other states and other countries can grow it as well.”

 

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 2 comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • rlw895August 17, 2014 - 4:49 am

    About time. Kentucky needs a cash crop to replace tobacco.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • JimboAugust 17, 2014 - 10:25 am

    I had to look it up, sure enough Kentucky is part of the tobacco belt. Thanks for that, I learned something today. And your suggestion makes perfect sense considering dwindling tobacco demand.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Recent Articles

  • Enter your email address to subscribe and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • .

    Solano News

     
    Solano County confirms 1st local case of measles

    By Staff and wire reports | From Page: A1

     
    SPCA begins caring for more than 100 rescued dogs

    By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A1, 1 Comment | Gallery

    Top workers, top students – and succulent crab

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

     
    Life sentence in 2011 execution-style killing

    By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A3

    Partial Fairfield freeway road closure starts Monday

    By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3

     
    DUI patrols set for Super Bowl Sunday

    By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3

    Armijo students savor catered Fuddruckers lunch

    By Susan Hiland And Susan Winlow | From Page: A3 | Gallery

     
    Fairfield police log: Jan. 29, 2015

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

    Suisun City police log: Jan. 29, 2015

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

     
    Another trip to Texas reminds me how lucky I am

    By Murray Bass | From Page: B10

    .

    US / World

    Stanford University to get $50 million to produce vaccines

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

     
    Man charged in California family’s deaths will be own lawyer

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

    Yosemite park fee hikes coming in March

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

     
    San Francisco coroner says human remains are from 1 man

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

    PG&E releases thousands of emails with state regulators

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

     
    Balloon crew makes history crossing Pacific Ocean

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

    Murder trial begins 35 years after 6-year-old vanished in NY

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

     
    Judge: Funeral home wrongly sold Lee Harvey Oswald’s casket

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

    Jordan awaits proof hostage is alive after swap deadline

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

     
    Judge expresses doubt about constitutionality of no-fly list

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

     
    French fracture laid bare as 8-year-old praises terrorists

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

    Africans open new front in war on terror to fight Boko Haram

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

     
    US mulls Middle East-North Africa category for 2020 Census

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

    New lottery tickets come with a side of bacon – scent

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

     
    .

    Opinion

    Solano College news makes me sick

    By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

     
    Editorial Cartoon: Jan. 31, 2015

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    .

    Living

    Community Calendar: Jan. 31, 2015

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

     
    Today in History: Jan. 31, 2015

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Horoscopes: Jan. 31, 2015

    By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B7

     
    My recently widowed mother is already thinking about re-marrying

    By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B7

    Five ways 3D-printed food will change the way we eat

    By The Washington Post | From Page: B10

     
    .

    Entertainment

    List: 10 Super Bowl ads you’ll be talking about

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

     
    Rod McKuen, mega-selling poet and performer, dies at 81

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

    Miranda Lambert leads ACM Awards with 8 nominations

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

     
    Shakira gives birth to 2nd baby with Spanish football star

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

    Ex-rap mogul ‘Suge’ Knight arrested in deadly hit-and-run

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

     
    .

    Sports

     
    Mustangs ride away from Indian’s home court with 66-60 victory

    By Marcus Lomtong | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Hayward, Utah Jazz upset Golden State Warriors 110-100

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

    LeBron returns, Love, Irving team for 44, as Cavs top Kings

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

     
    Kings’ Cousins to replace Kobe Bryant in All-Star game

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

    Blackhawks Hall of Famer Stan Mikita has brain disorder

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Ko takes lead at LPGA opener, closes in on golf history

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

    Laird leads as Tiger shoots 82 and misses the cut

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Seau, Warner, Pace first-time Hall eligibles

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

    N.H. Speedway general manager faces lewdness charge

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Djokovic beats Wawrinka to reach fifth Australian Open final

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

    Judge: Jury can watch Super Bowl unless Hernandez mentioned

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Carroll says decision is Sherman’s if baby arrives early

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

    NFL’s Goodell seeks to look past ‘tough year,’ to future

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

     
    This date in sports history for Jan. 31, 2015

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

     
    .

    Business

    US consumer confidence at highest level in a decade

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

     
    Companies steering clear of Super Bowl name

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

    .

    Obituaries

    Joe Lambert Robinson

    By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

     
    Otilia (Tela) Quinn

    By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

    Danica Gojkovich Ryder

    By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

     
    WillIiam “Bill” Hunter

    By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

    Garry A. Britton

    By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

     
    Anneliese Edith (Luckner) Fraser

    By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

    Anthony Neal Hunley

    By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

     
    Frank Z. Perez

    By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

    .

    Comics

    Rose is Rose

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

     
    Baby Blues

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

    Sally Forth

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

     
    Get Fuzzy

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

    Wizard of Id

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

     
    For Better or Worse

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

    Beetle Bailey

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

     
    Pickles

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

    Blondie

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

     
    Zits

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

    Garfield

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

     
    Peanuts

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

    B.C.

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

     
    Dilbert

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

    Frank and Ernest

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

     
    Baldo

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

    Sudoku

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

     
    Crossword

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

    Bridge

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

     
    Cryptoquote

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

    Word Sleuth

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

     
    .

    Home Seller 1/31/2015

    Quirky add-ons a common feature of celebrity homes

    By The Associated Press | From Page: HSR2

    5 ways to make a kitchen more germ-free

    By The Associated Press | From Page: HSR3

    Average US rate on 30-year mortgage rises to 3.66 percent

    By The Associated Press | From Page: HSR3

    Real estate transactions for Jan. 31, 2015

    By Daily Republic | From Page: HSR3