The Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) is now accepting hemp grower and processor/handler applications and renewals for the 2023 season. Individuals applying for a...

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) is now accepting hemp grower and processor/handler applications and renewals for the 2023 season.

Individuals applying for a cultivation license or renewing their license must apply by March 15, 2023. Processor/handler license renewals must be completed by Dec. 31; however, new processor/handler license applications can be submitted year-round, according to a KDA press release.

The KDA issued 240 cultivation and 93 processor/handler licenses in 2022. The department licensed the 240 growers to cultivate up to 5,530 acres; however, only 70 licensees planted hemp this year—growing a little over 1,300 acres, according to the release.

Kentucky’s declining hemp production numbers this year align with national trends, according to the release.

For example, recent data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency show there are 21,879 reported acres of hemp planted this year as of Nov. 1. That number is down 38% from 2021 (35,364 acres) and down 85% from 2019 (146,780 acres).

“Regulatory inaction toward cannabinoids by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to hamper the nation’s hemp industry,” Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, Ph.D., said. “As we enter the 10th growing season, we still believe this could one day be a valuable crop for Kentucky farmers, but we also encourage all hemp growers and processors to carefully consider all of the factors in this industry.”

In a Nov. 15 U.S. House subcommittee hearing on cannabis, Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., noted that he implemented the state’s first hemp pilot program when he served as the commonwealth’s agriculture commissioner, and as a U.S. representative, he authored language to federally legalize hemp for industrial and commercial use during the drafting of the 2018 Farm Bill. However, Comer noted regulatory inaction by the FDA, particularly on CBD, and said the hemp industry is demanding more regulation.

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“Innovative companies sprung up after legalization, and hemp is now a component of everything from car door panels to hardwood floors, and we have a really impressive hemp hardwood floor factory in my district of Murray, Kentucky,” Comer said. “Unfortunately, the industry is currently struggling with an uncertain regulatory environment that has depressed its ability to expand and thrive despite clear demand for their products. In my opinion, the U.S. FDA needs to get to work in this space and provide regulatory certainty for hemp. We must also provide financial certainty and access to credit for entrepreneurs and farmers who operate legitimate businesses and are innovating within this new market opportunity.”

Cannabis Business Times Managing Editor Patrick Williams contributed to this article.

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