Industrial hemp is coming to Kansas, but first the Department of Agriculture has to figure out how to regulate it.
To get started, the department is holding public meetings to get input from potential growers.
“Please don’t be frustrated if our answer is, ‘We don’t know yet,’ because that’s part of why we’ve asked you to come so we can figure out what we need to figure out,” Chad Bontrager, Kansas Agribusiness Service director, said before beginning his presentation at a recent meeting in Manhattan.
The meeting consisted of an overview of the recently passed law opening up the pilot project, as well as presentations from two people involved in the operation of industrial hemp programs in Kentucky and Colorado.
Dozens of people participated in the meeting, including Christina Hett. She’s a farmer in Marion County who’s interested in hemp as an alternative to the wheat, soy beans and corn she already grows.
“The farming markets are terrible, and it’s just to the point that we have to find something else,” she said.
But even after the meeting, she still had lots of questions and concerns, especially about how much a license to grow would cost.
“It’s almost like they’re not thinking about this from the producer’s perspective,” she said.
The state Department of Agriculture’s goal is to have draft regulations completed by July 1 and to begin issuing licenses to grow by the beginning of 2019.
Brian Grimmett reports on the environment and energy for the Kansas News Service. Follow him on Twitter @briangrimmett.