Sales of hemp products in Kentucky surged in 2018

Kentucky’s resurgent hemp sector flexed more economic clout in 2018, with processors reporting sharply higher sales and farmers reaping more than twice as much income from their crop.

The state’s hemp processors reported $57.75 million in gross product sales last year, compared with $16.7 million in 2017, Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said Monday.

Processors spent $23.4 million on capital improvements and employed a total of 459 people in 2018.

Kentucky farmers were paid $17.75 million for harvested hemp materials in 2018, up from $7.5 million the year before.

The numbers were based on licensed processors’ reports to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and provided a snapshot of hemp’s growth heading into a new era of full legalization.

“We are building the critical mass of growers, processors and researchers that will ensure the hemp industry’s success in Kentucky for years to come,” Quarles said in a news release.

Last year’s surge in processor sales and the amount paid farmers came before hemp was legalized as a farm commodity as part of the 2018 Farm Bill.

More than 50,000 acres have been approved for Kentucky hemp production in 2019, more than triple the approved acreage in 2018.

The number of approved hemp growers for 2019 is set to be 1,047, nearly five times higher than in 2018.

In 2018, 210 Kentucky farmers planted more than 6,700 acres of hemp and 33 acres in 2014, the first year the crop could be grown on an experimental basis.

Kentucky’s agriculture department has approved 110 hemp processor/handler license applications so far for 2019 and expects more applications, Quarles said.

It also has approved more than 6 million square feet of greenhouse space for hemp cultivation.

Quarles cautioned that the hemp sector is in the “beginning stages” of its transition to full commercialization and urged growers and processors to be “clear-eyed” about the opportunities and challenges.

“Like all crops and business ventures, there is risk in this industry,” he said.

– Associated Press and Hemp Industry Daily