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Researchers Studying Market Viability of Industrial Hemp in Kentucky

LEXINGTON, Ky. - While Kentucky lawmakers continue to wrangle over an industrial hemp bill, researchers at the University of Kentucky are working on an economic impact report.

The study was requested by the state’s Industrial Hemp Commission, which wants to see the crop legalized as a way to create jobs.

Agricultural economist Dr. Leigh Maynard says part of the report will include an enterprise budget—what it would take to get the hemp market started in Kentucky.

“Not only the steps in the production, what equipment and what inputs are used, but also the cost of those, the quantities of inputs need.”

The more difficult question to answer is what kind of revenue industrial hemp could bring in.

“No amount of study is going to be able to predict whether enough processors will locate in Kentucky to provide farmers with a market. That’s going to be an unknown,” says Maynard.

Researchers have been looking to Canada’s hemp production, but even there it is considered a niche market with far fewer farm acres compared to other crops. If hemp were legal in the United States, new jobs could be created, but Maynard says it wouldn't necessarily be a game-changer for agriculture.

“All we can really give is a wide range of plausible prices based on what we see in other parts of the world, in other markets.”

UK expects to have its study completed by early July.

Lexington native Brenna Angel anchored local morning newscasts for WUKY through May 13. She joined the station in March 2010 after previously working for WHAS-AM in Louisville.