(AP) Kentucky’s resurgent hemp sector flexed more economic clout in 2018, with processors reporting sharply higher sales and farmers reaping more than twice as much income from their crop, the state’s agriculture commissioner said Monday. The state’s hemp processors reported $57.75 million in gross product sales last year, compared with $16.7 million in 2017, Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said. Processors spent $23.4 million in capital improvements and employed a total of 459 people in 2018, he said. Processors paid Kentucky farmers $17.75 million for harvested hemp materials in 2018, up from $7.5 million the year before, Quarles said.
The numbers were based on licensed processors’ reports to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and provided a snapshot of hemp’s growth heading into a new era of full legalization. Even with the growth, hemp remains a blip on the radar for Kentucky’s diversified agriculture sector.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell helped push Congress to legalize hemp. The Kentucky Republican put himself on the conference committee that worked out the deal that legalized hemp. Another Kentuckian who served on the conference committee was U.S. Rep. James Comer, who was an early hemp advocate when he was the state’s agriculture committee.