HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Agriculture is accepting applications from farmers who want to be part of the state’s industrial hemp research program, which state lawmakers created last April.
One of the farmers eager to get on board is PJ Sneed, who is building infrastructure, clearing land and establishing a cover crop on his land in western Reno County.
“I’m very excited; for me, it’s been a long time coming,” Sneed said. “It has for a lot of people, especially the grassroots movement. We’ve all been waiting for this moment.”
Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer signed legislation last April to allow industrial hemp production only for research purposes, with a goal of encouraging the resurgence of hemp as a production crop and to promote economic development. The 2018 federal farm bill also legalized hemp farming.
The agriculture department has spent the last year gathering public input and establishing regulations for the program. Applications are due to the department by March 1.
Before the federal farm bill was approved, Kansas could only establish a research program for hemp growing but the state is now open to establishing commercial growing if the legislature approves, The Hutchinson News reported .
“So nothing is changing yet. The law that passed last spring and the regulations that go with it are what’s on the books,” agriculture department spokeswoman Heather Lansdowne said.
Lansdowne said the earliest the state could have additional laws to allow industrial hemp would likely be 2020.
Sneed agreed and predicted a large increase in hemp growers in the new future.
“I think in year two you’ll see a huge boom after people see what it is and how it’s grown,” he said. “In 2020 I think you’ll start to see more banks open up for commercial loans and things like that.”
The application process will include background checks and more.
The Hemp Biz Conference and the Planted Association of Kansas, of which Sneed is a member, will host a symposium on hemp growing in Hutchinson on Feb. 23. He said it’s designed to help farmers network and find markets but the focus this year will be on rules and regulations and the application process.