KY hemp industry’s economic impact locally

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WINCHESTER, Ky. (WTVQ) — 2018 was a good year for hemp in Kentucky.

Kentucky AG commissioner Ryan Quarles says in 2017 hemp growers made around $7.5 million and in 2018 it was $17.5 million.

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“Kentucky can be known for more than bourbon, race horses and Kentucky Fried Chicken around the world,” said Quarles during a press conference Monday. “Kentucky is now known for being the comeback state for industrial hemp.”

Ben Webb, with Brookview Farm, says this is will be its fourth year growing hemp.

“Every year we’ve actually doubled the amount that we’ve grown so we started off with four and then we did eight and then 15 and then I think this year we’re going to do 50,” says Webb.

Webb used to grow tobacco only. He says it’s nice to have another sustainable crop for income that’s doing so well.

He says it’s exciting for Kentucky potentially being the leader for hemp.

“I love this state and love to see it doing good and prosperous so anything that can bring some revenue to the state and help us out is cool with me,” says Webb.

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture approved 110 hemp processor/handler license applications for 2019 so far and is expecting more.

One of those is from Lincoln Day with Kentucky Burley Company, who says he’s excited for the opportunity to work with such a versatile product.

“Kentucky Burley Company is a service for farmers. Right now what farmers are doing on farm they can bring to a centralized location with this machine in it and we can replace what the farmers are hiring some outside laborer to do,” says Day.

And he hopes to use this machine, which takes the usable product and separates it from the stalk, to help hemp farmers.

He says it’s the only machine in the nation that has the potential to automatically do this.

“So it’s hand and hand humans and machines working together,” says Day. “We can just do it 90% more efficient than doing it by hand.”

Day says this is why Kentucky can be the leader for hemp.

“The more hemp we can get in Kentucky the better. What kind of sets us apart from the rest of the country is that we have mechanization right here at our doorstep.”

He expects to start processing hemp this October.

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Christy Bollinger joined the ABC 36 news team as a reporter in March 2018. Christy comes from a little western Kentucky town called Cadiz. She graduated from Western Kentucky University in May 2017 with degrees in Broadcast Journalism and Criminology. Christy is thrilled to be working at her dream job in her home state. She is passionate about storytelling and you can see her weekdays on ABC 36 News at 5 and 6 p.m. She's covered everything from visits from the sitting president and vice president, to high-profile murder cases. When not chasing stories, Christy loves nothing more than being at the beach and says life is just better with sand between your toes and waves crashing at your feet. She is also a big animal lover. She's a fur momma and her mini-Australian Shepherd, Milly, standard Australian Shepherd, Bennie, and her Maine Coon, Cheeto, are the loves of her life. Christy encourages you to send her any story ideas you may have. Find her on Facebook at Christy Bollinger ABC 36, tweet her @ChristyB_news, or email her at CBollinger@wtvq.com.