Quarles calls on FDA to act

Hemp plants grow in a greenhouse at Paul Glover’s Mile Marker 5 farm in Hawesville.

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles is urging the Food and Drug Administration to provide long-awaited guidance regarding hemp.

On Friday, the KDA released its hemp licensing and economic data for 2020 and despite a rocky 2019, 960 Kentuckians signed and received their licenses for the 2020 grow season, with 157 opting to forgo growing in the hopes of being able to offload the tens of thousands of pounds that many in the state are still saddled with due to a glut in the national CBD market.

The major obstacle in the way of the burgeoning hemp market expanding and the more than 25,000 uses of the crop being fully utilized is the silence and inaction of the FDA, according to Quarles.

“The FDA needs to simply act,” Quarles said. “Even a signal to the industry that they are exploring the potential uses of hemp and its nutraceutical applications would send a message of hope to the hemp community. CBD has dominated production and processing, but there is far more to hemp than CBD. I will admit that the FDA has to balance public safety with an emerging market, but with these products existing for over half a decade, they need to act. The industry is willing to fund it and comply with the guidelines. The hemp community in Kentucky wants to follow the law and are simply waiting for a framework to operate under. If the FDA wants to aid the industry, we need a clear signal that they are going to act.”

While laws and regulations have been passed by state legislatures, the primary issue is that the FDA, which has asserted jurisdiction over the crop, has not worked along with states nationwide in moving forward in a constructive and beneficial way, Quarles says.

“They need to move with us in a constructive way to move the industry forward,” he said. “We are encouraging the industry to move past CBD and we are having serious talks about developing a framework to facilitate a shift from CBD to textiles, automobiles, using hemp to repair bridges, hempcrete. We have companies being innovative and we need that FDA guidance to ensure that there will be a long term hemp market in Kentucky.”

Potential is a major descriptor in an emergent industry with many challenges, but Quarles isn’t alone in his mission to ensure the longevity and success of Kentucky hemp. Sen. Mitch McConnell, who remains a staunch supporter of hemp, is backing Quarles and the industry in motivating the FDA.

“Kentucky farmers have been exploring hemp’s possibilities since the enactment of the pilot programs I secured in the 2014 Farm Bill,” McConnell said. “With my initiative to fully legalize hemp in 2018, we’ve continued learning a great deal about this crop and its potential. One of the biggest lessons of the past year is the need for regulatory clarity from the FDA. Without these federal guidelines, Kentucky growers, processors and manufacturers lack the certainty needed to take full advantage of the opportunities hemp offers. As Senate majority leader, I’ll continue working with Commissioner Quarles in urging the FDA to provide reasonable regulations. Kentucky’s agriculture community is lucky to have his strong leadership. With his help, I look forward to overcoming hemp’s remaining challenges and helping Kentucky’s farm families successfully grow and market this promising crop.”

For Kentucky Hemp Industries Association President and hemp farmer Tate Hall, the fight for federal hemp recognition has been a staged battle, but ultimately without guidance, the industry is “in the dark,” he said.

“The big thing is guidance,” Hall said. “We have been in the dark since last years announcements recognizing hemp for the first time on the federal level. They have to figure out the crop insurance situation as well as farm lending for hemp industry farmers and expanding the uses of CBD, hemp fiber and grain. With food insecurities being highlighted in the food chain due to the pandemic, hemp could be a perfect alternative to grain and now is the time we should be exploring that. Nothing can move forward without the FDA’s guidance. Until that happens, we are all in the dark.”

Jacob Mulliken, 270-228-2837, jmulliken@messenger-inquirer.com

Jacob Mulliken, 270-228-2837, jmulliken@messenger-inquirer.com

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