KENTUCKY — The Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) has licensed 960 hemp growers to grow up to 32,000 acres and 150 hemp processors and handlers for 2020. The KDA also licensed 4.6 million square feet of greenhouse space for production.
In 2019, The KDA oversaw 978 licensed growers and 210 processors, and Kentucky growers reported growing 26,500 acres of hemp in 2019.
"Hemp continues to draw much attention, and these new numbers reflect an industry that is still maturing," said Agriculture Commissioner Dr. Ryan Quarles. “The nation’s hemp industry is reacting to a market which is evolving in the face of supply chain issues and the uncertain future of cannabidiol products after the Food and Drug Administration’s years-long struggle to provide a regulatory framework for nutraceutical or food products. We will continue to work with our Cabinet for Economic Development to draw new investment for every sector of the hemp economy, including fiber and grain, into our state.”
One hundred and fifty-seven of the 960 licensed growers have not requested growing sites but intend to store hemp from 2019's harvest for marketing in 2020. KDA is waiting on an additional 60 processor applications to be completed.
The online application portal is open year-round for processors and handlers with the KDA reviewing applications on a rolling basis.
Growers had until March 15 to apply for the 2020 season, a change from previous seasons where the deadline was November.
The KDA also released data from 2019, including processors and handlers generating $193.9 million in gross product sales. This marks a significant increase from 2018's $57.5 million in gross product sales. Processors also reported spending $207.3 million on capital investment in 2019 compared to $23.4 million in 2018.
Processors, who employed 1,304 people in 2019, also reported paying $51.3 million for harvested hemp materials in 2019, significantly up from $17.75 million in 2018 and $7.5 million in 2017.
"While these numbers show growth, they likely do not account for the national volatility in the hemp market over the last few months," Commissioner Quarles said. “It is important for growers and processors to remember what we have been saying for years: proceed with caution, as you would in any new business. We urge everyone to move forward in a cautious manner, especially in the face of the uncertainty from FDA.”