Kentucky has been searching for a way to get younger people engaged in agriculture for years. "We have found it", said a UK Agronomist at a recent hemp production field day at the UK farm. Many producers with no previous agricultural background are entering hemp farming.

In 2014, 33 acres of hemp were planted in Kentucky. In 2018, 6,700 acres. An explosion in applications in 2019 is for 22,500 acres. Kentucky has more than 1,000 farms and 200 hemp companies in 102 counties. There are more than 500 full time jobs beyond the farm gate and 2019 revenues are expected to exceed 100 million dollars.

There is great hope and optimism for this product. There are risks as well. Here are a few risks: No crop insurance option at this time, banks unwilling to loan money for this crop, issues with transporting across state lines, questions about how FDA will treat this product, current no approved pesticides or herbicides.

There are three basic crop options -- CBD, seed (grain) and fiber. CBD currently makes up 90% of the plantings. The potential for CBD is very enticing but the risks is high as well. The market is subject to wild swings. There is significant antidotal evidence of the effects of CBD on some human aliments. No clinical trials have been done and FDA approval as a pharmaceutical is several years away. 40% of CBD oil samples did not match labeling.

Crops will be tested and must have less than .3% THC (the active chemical in marijuana). A UK research scientist reported about 5% of the samples failed. The crop is lost if it fails the test. Visually the buds of a marijuana plant and hemp plant are indistinguishable.

Just a few guidelines if you are thinking about growing hemp -- Do not invest more than you are willing to lose. Have a contract with a reputable processor before growing. This is not a product you can take to market like cattle. Deal with reputable suppliers. Female seeds, used for CBD, cost up to $25,000 per pound.

China has grown hemp for thousands of years, Europe for hundreds. Kentucky has not grown hemp for 70-80 years. We have a lot of relearning to do.

There is some euphoria for this crop as well as tremendous uncertainty. One UK agronomist predicted that cash value for this crop would end up like tobacco for CBD and corn and soybeans for seed and fiber.

Apply with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture for a license to grow hemp. Cost of permit is about $400. Happy farming!

Billy Ray Hughes

Owner, Hughes Concepts LLC and former county magistrate

Concerned mother and citizen

I am a mother of three teenagers in the Madison County School District. My husband and I like many others, both work fulltime. We have a 3-year-old who attends daycare during our working hours. As a concerned mother and citizen, I am writing to bring awareness to a truly needed service in our local community. Richmond public schools let out a full 2 hours before I finish my workday, a typical 8 hour shift.

I am hesitant to allow my teenagers to stay home unattended more so now than ever, especially considering all the things us parents have to worry about this day and age. However, I have had very few other options than to do so. Most local "daycares" only enroll children up to the age of 11 years old, my kids are 12 and 13. I was overjoyed when a relative told me about a Teen Center in Richmond and that it may be a possible solution to my issue. However, I was shocked to find out that there is only ONE Madison County school bus that runs to the Richmond Teen Center which unfortunately happens to not be in our school district. The one and only bus that transports teens to the Richmond Teen Center is from Caudill Middle School.

What good is a teen center, if the teens have no way of getting there? I am not alone in this issue. Many parents of friends of my children are facing the same obstacle, forced to have locked key children with no resources for an alternative safe afterschool haven. As working and taxpaying citizens, the city of Richmond should do better with allocating finances and apply them to the true needs of the community in which we live, our children and teens being a top priority.

Amber Lewis


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