SOURCE: New Hope Network

This home-grown economic driver can replace fiber, concrete, tobacco, plastic, petroleum. Oh, and it could also save the climate crisis. Are you on board?

After years of anti-smoking campaigns across America, the once-proud Kentucky tobacco farmer has well and truly fallen on hard times. Despite some export opportunities for Asian markets, tobacco just isn’t cool any more.

But farmers there have an expertise in planting crops. And they’re tired of sitting around, cashing relief checks.

Josh Hendrix, President of Kentucky Hemp Industry Association

Josh Hendrix, President of Kentucky Hemp Industry Association

Josh Hendrix is a grandson of a Kentucky farmer. He is young, bearded and reasonably hip, at least by Kentucky standards. He founded the Kentucky Hemp Industries Association and helped form the Kentucky Hemp Industry Council — its mission to lobby politicians to create a new business paradigm for down-and-out Kentucky farmers. Hemp.

“Kentucky hemp is cool,” Hendrix said at the third annual NoCo Hemp Expo, held in Loveland, Colorado, April 1-2. “It’s good for farmers, good for processing jobs. But nobody buys hemp products in Kentucky. On the west coast or here in Colorado it’s normal. Kentucky is an exporter.”

Hendrix, now also the director of business development for domestic production for CBD company CV Sciences (formerly Cannavest), said the Kentucky tobacco crop has been decimated because of the sustained anti-smoking campaigns here.

“Farmers need a replacement crop,” he said. “We have the agricultural infrastructure. We should do this, we’re not growing tobacco anymore.”

He said in Kentucky after the 2014 Farm Bill was signed, Kentucky farmers grew 930 acres of hemp. In 2016, there is approval granted for 4,600 acres.

That 2014 Farm Bill allowed states to grow their own hemp if their state law allowed. It also defined “industrial hemp” as having less than 0.3 percent THC — the cannabinoid that gets you high.

Nine states took Congress up on its offer, with the leaders being Colorado and Kentucky.

CBD Biosciences, based in Pueblo, Colorado — which is rapidly becoming the agricultural capital of industrial hemp grows in the state, thanks to a climate that can accommodate two grow cycles per year — planted 120 acres of hemp in 2015 and expects to plant 1,200 acres in 2016, according to company owner Chris Peruzzi. He said he expects the company to employ 130 people in three years in its 200,000 square-foot facility that once housed a Boeing airplane plant.

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