The Kentucky Department of Agriculture will extend the hemp pilot research pilot program for one more year as the state awaits the finalization of the United States Department of Agriculture final rules regarding a national commercial hemp program.

The announcement made by Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles on Tuesday was geared toward lessening fear among Kentucky’s farmers going into the 2020 season by keeping the same rules created under the state pilot provision of the 2014 Farm Bill followed in 2019.

On Oct. 31, the USDA released its tentative interim final rule that would provide a regulatory framework for monitoring hemp cultivation and production stemming from the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized the crop federally.

The rule applies to producers of hemp and outlines how the USDA will approve hemp production plans developed by states under federally approved plans. The new rules lay out regulations surrounding testing requirements, interstate transport, state production laws and regulations surrounding delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Due to concern among farmers and state governments about new and incredibly restrictive rules, the USDA extended its deadline for public input to Jan. 29.

The move on the part of Quarles is a major boon for the state’s burgeoning hemp industry and the state’s farmers, said Tate Hall, Kentucky Hemp Industries Association president.

“Nothing is changing in terms of the 2020 grow season,” he said. “This gives us more time to perfect genetics for industrial use on farms and give guidance for farmers and green houses right now. However, Jan. 1, 2021, the new rules will be set and we will be expecting new regulations. We will see what is happening with the THC %age in particular as well as insurance, which should be more available in 2021. In this next year, we will have some breathing room.”

While the new USDA regulations will most likely be released toward the end of the year, the hemp industry will maintain its status-quo for 2020.

And according to Hall, that is a good thing.

“It is huge; anything we can do for the markets to protect the hemp crop right now is vital,” he said. “I think Quarles realized that the best thing for the state and our farmers is to keep the status quo for one more year and not cause a panic or devaluation of the crop or the 2019 crop due to uncertainties revolving around the impending USDA final rule. We are appreciative of KDA. Our association keeps a close eye on our state and the changes and we want to continue that. There are other markets that we want to open, but the announcement today was a big win for our industry.”

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

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

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