HEMP – KENTUCKY’S “NEW TOBACCO” CROP
December 22, 2016 – Hemp is getting more attention in the heartland. AgWeb reported this morning on Kentucky’s expanding hemp crop, referring to hemp as “the New Tobacco” in the state.
Since the 2014 U.S. farm bill’s authorization of state agriculture departments to create industrial hemp research pilot programs, Kentucky has increased hemp acres planted from 33 to 922 in 2015, and increasing to 2,350 acres planted in 2016.
AgWeb cites various key drivers to hemp’s rising popularity in amongst Kentucky’s agriculture industry including declining prices for grains and commodities and a shrinking tobacco market. According to the Hemp Industries Association, total retail sales of hemp products in the U.S. reached $573 million in 2015.
There are estimated to be anywhere from 25,000 to 50,000 uses for hemp, which basically fall into three major product categories: fiber, oilseed and pharmaceuticals. The pharmaceutical category of industrial hemp which is responsible for producing medical cannabidiol (CBD) oil is another key driver to hemp’s increasing demand and attraction as a cash crop.
Cannabidiol has been found to have therapeutic potential for disorders including inflammation, and anxiety, and has the potential as a neuroprotective agent and an antioxidant. It has been used to treat nausea, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, neurogenerative diseases and pain.
From an agricultural perspective, the Corn Belt is believed to be the best region for hemp production, in addition to Kentucky, which has been successful in past production.
As of October 2016, 30 states have passed laws on industrial hemp. Approximately half of the state laws permit farmers to be licensed to grow hemp. Thirteen additional states are attempting to pass laws. In three states, hemp legislation is contingent on changes in federal laws governing industrial hemp. And all states use the threshold concentration of 0.3% THC to legally distinguish hempo, except for West Virginia which set the threshold at 1.0 THC.