Hemp takes root in Kentucky


by Joe Arnold


Posted on June 23, 2014 at 7:25 PM

Updated Monday, Jun 23 at 7:25 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Kentucky's industrial hemp pilot projects have literally taken root, with small crops growing at several universities and at private farms.

University of Kentucky researcher David Williams says he is "very, very happy" with the hemp planted at UK's Spindletop Research Farm near Lexington.

"It's too early to draw any conclusions," Williams told WHAS11, but said the hemp seeds planted at UK, Eastern Kentucky University and Western Kentucky University are now 12” to 14” tall and have not exhibited any problems with pests or disease.
The universities will compile a report on the crop's viability after the hemp is harvested in October.

"The farm laboratory is for the education of our students but it's also to support the industry of agriculture," Tony Brannon, of the Murray State University Hutson School of Agriculture, said.

Murray State University was first in Kentucky to plant hemp seeds, quietly sowing seeds shipped from California in May, even as controversy swirled around a separate hemp seed shipment to the Kentucky Agriculture Department.

U.S. Customs released the hemp seeds to the state after impounding them for one month.  The Drug Enforcement Agency reached an agreement with Kentucky clearing the hemp seed shipment in accordance with new regulations stipulated in the Farm Bill signed into law last March.

While the DEA allowed the hemp seeds to be cultivated by educational researchers, Kentucky's Agriculture Department has allowed private growers to sign memorandums of understanding to be a part of the program.

"We had already informed the DEA that we were going to be distributing seed to some private growers," Holly VonLuehrte, Chief of Staff of the Agriculture Department, said.  "And we did that before they actually released the Italian seed to us."

"I've had some interesting cargo in my car but never thought I would be carrying hemp back to Christian County," Rachel McCubbin, as she recently retrieved three bags of hemp seeds in Frankfort, said.

Her hemp strains have exotic names: Carmagnola, Fibranova, Carma. McCubbin has posted updates on their progress on her Twitter account.

As a private grower, Rachel McCubbin had to submit to a background check and sign a memorandum of understanding with the Ag. Department.

"There's an accountability of whose handling the seed, who's able to be on the property when we're sowing the seed, et cetera," McCubbin explained.

"I'm just interested to see from a research standpoint whether that might be a viable crop for the small, north Christian farm family," she added.