LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville typically has a population of about 600,000, but a bumper crop of visitors will increase that to nearly a million this week. The National Farm Machinery Show is in town and with it comes new trends and technology. But as industrial hemp experiences growing pains, the talk was all about industrial hemp.

Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture, Ryan Quarles, said that tech is always a draw at the show that packs the Kentucky Exposition Center.

Of course, many talk about the tractor pulls and big machines on display, but another topic of conversation this year is the newly legalized crop of industrial hemp.

Some here grew it last year, others who decided not to are hearing frustrations from neighbors who did.

Paul Hayse is a Kentucky farmer who did not plant hemp. "Markets are sketchy right now, obviously, so they got it trying to get rid of it but the price is not what they thought it was going to be,” Hayse said of his neighbors.

Illinois farmer Jarrett Littlefield is thankful he decided not to take the risk some of his friends did, “Absolutely, I am because there's nowhere to sell it. There was just too much of it grown and not enough of the processors around."

WHAS11 asked Commissioner Quarles whether hemp is going to survive.

“Hemp is an opportunity for Kentucky to embrace a crop, just like we've embraced other crops. There's one thing we've tried to tell people, it’s that there is a risk involved in this industry. Do not invest more than you are willing to lose,” said Commissioner Quarles. “But, however, if you are a farmer or processor, and you want a chance to experiment with this crop, do it here in Kentucky. There are dozens of companies that are doing just fine, however, we are trying to crack down on the processors that owe farmers money.”

Commissioner Quarles hopes that statistics from 2019 will be released in March and will paint a clearer picture. But just as the crowds at the National Farm Machinery Show look to the future, he insists that enthusiasm remains high with Kentucky companies working their way through the hiccups of industrial hemp as spring planting approaches.

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