Kentucky Hemp Farmers Expanding Operations, Tennessee Farmers Shying Away

Farmers in Kentucky and Tennessee are seeing vastly different results in their respective industrial hemp markets.

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture has authorized 4,500 acres of hemp production this year – the third year testing its viability as a cash crop in the state, according to an Associated Press report. Last year the pilot program saw 900 acres of hemp grown after just 33 total acres in 2014.

“Hemp is a bridge from Kentucky’s past to our future,” Ryan Quarles, Agriculture Department commissioner, said in the report. “The Kentucky Department of Agriculture and our partners are committed to building upon the solid foundation of research for a Kentucky hemp industry that will create jobs and new marketing opportunities.”

Meanwhile, in border-state Tennessee, just 25 farmers have signed up to produce hemp, down from the 50 who signed up last year, the AP reported. The low enrollment is likely due to low, or nonexistent, profits by farmers who took a shot on the crop during the first year of the pilot program.

Chuck Mason, a Cook County farmer, said the crop turned out to be a bust after his hemp seeds were more than a month late following customs delays and he was “just not willing” to take another chance on the crop. Mason said he will return to growing hay.

Tennessee charges $254 for a permit to grow hemp, and one farmer, Wayne Smith of Washington County, said he was offered $7 for his 10-pound seed yield.

“I’m going to use the harvested seed to make oil and maybe sell it as a novelty item,” he said.

Farmers in Tennessee have until April 1 to apply for a permit.

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