Kentucky’s hemp industry is beginning to struggle

The hemp industry in Kentucky was said to be the replacement for tobacco, but it has failed to meet expectations.
Published: Jul. 10, 2023 at 10:15 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - The hemp industry in Kentucky was said to be the replacement for tobacco, but it failed to meet expectations. The industry is struggling, and candidates for Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner agree that it is not in good shape.

“I hope that there is a way that we can make this a very viable crop for the state of Kentucky,” said Republican candidate Jonathan Shell, who has personal experience in the hemp industry. “At one point in time, we were one of the largest and first farmers that had gotten involved in it, and I can tell you that it was not good for us. We -- we lost money, we never made a profit.”

Enlow expressed concerns about the false promises given to farmers who choose to enter the hemp-growing industry.

“It’s just not fair to build hope without a good market in place,” said Democratic candidate Enlow. “I think that with any new market, it’s going to take years to get developed.”

A key difference between the two candidates is how to handle involvement in the hemp-growing industry, with Shell focused on protections for those who struggle to profit from hemp-growing.

“Picking yourself up after that happens is really tough and so the thing that I want to focus on as we move into new markets in the state, if we have any others that come in, is just making sure that we have protections put in place for our farmers,” said Shell.

Enlow expressed a focus on incentives to encourage farmers to participate in hemp-growing.

“It’s really important that we don’t sell fairytales to Kentucky farmers and that we bring Kentucky farmers good opportunities with new agriculture products that have real markets behind them and that we are encouraging them to participate at good, steady paces to engage in those markets,” said Enlow.

Shell appeared on Kentucky Newsmakers this past Sunday, and Enlow will appear on Kentucky Newsmakers this upcoming Sunday.