Kentucky’s first legal hemp production in at least 50 years will include five projects in conjunction with state universities to test whether the crop can help clean soil on former industrial sites, Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said Monday.
Each of the projects will be paid for through private contributions and will focus on different possibilities for hemp, which has long been illegal in the United States along with marijuana — its more potent cousin. A provision in the new farm bill allows for the pilot projects.
In Louisville, Ky., the state’s Department of Agriculture will oversee hemp farming on an as-yet-undetermined former industrial site to see whether the the crop can help clean tainted soil.
The project is expected to be in conjunction with the University of Louisville, Comer said, adding that more projects could be authorized. University of Louisville spokesman Mark Hebert said the university hasn’t agreed to its role yet but said officials plan to talk more with Comer and city officials about how the university can help research new ways to reclaim polluted property.
Chris Poynter, a spokesman for Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, said hemp can help pull many contaminants out of the soil of former industrial sites, a valuable step toward potentially redeveloping so-called brownfields.
Poynter confirmed that Comer and Fischer talked in recent weeks and that Louisville Police Chief Steve Conrad has consented to the idea of a pilot effort, though no site has been decided.
“The mayor is interested in anything that can help us remediate brownfields, and this could be a pretty innovative, unique way to do it,” Poynter said.
Hemp Research first
Comer hopes that the farm bill will allow hemp production for sale, not just research, but he said his staff is researching the question with Attorney General Jack Conway.
“When we get that question answered, that’s going to determine how much hemp’s planted,” Comer said.
But the first year of hemp production probably will focus on research and development, he said.
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