Kentucky farmers not sure they can grow profit from industrial - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Kentucky farmers not yet sure they can grow profit from industrial hemp

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky lawmakers are hotly debating whether to legalize industrial hemp. But do Kentucky farmers think hemp could help grow profits?

Farmers we talked to at the National Farm Machinery show expressed both excitement and uncertainty about the controversial crop.

The National Farm Machinery Show is the largest annual gathering place for America's farmers and future farmers.

They come to kick the tires on latest equipment, and to kick around the latest controversies. For Kentucky farmers, that includes legalizing industrial hemp.

"I think it would be something we would be willing to try," said Dustin Ogburn.

Ogburn farms 400 acres in Carroll Co. He stopped growing tobacco several years ago, and is looking at alternatives. He says hemp could be the answer..

"We would just have to see what the cost would be to get into it, but I think it would be a good option if it was feasible to do and wouldn't have too much overhead with it," he said.

And that is the key to the entire debate. Can Kentucky farmers really profit from industrial hemp as they did before it was outlawed decades ago?

"People aren't going to grow it just to be growing it. I mean it's going to have to be a moneymaking thing," said Owensboro farmer Sam Hodskins.

"It will help me if it's a do-able crop that makes money," said Wes Hargis, a farm machinery dealer from Somerset.

He thinks farmers should be allowed to make their own decisions about hemp. But that decision could very well be 'no.'

"Right now with grain prices the way they are, I don't see industrial hemp being something of a positive nature. I have nothing against it. It's just dollars and cents," he said.

But even if Kentucky passes a hemp law, it will still be a long time before any of these farmers can grow it. The federal government must first lift its ban on industrial hemp.

"If you can't sell it, hell, you're not doing any good," said Ogburn.

"If the money's right and everything's right, I think you could get some farmers to grow it," said Hodskins.

The State Senate passed a hemp bill earlier this week. But on Friday, House Speaker Greg Stumbo expressed doubts about the market for the crop.

Ag Commissioner James Comer, who is a huge backer of hemp, says farmers should be allowed to decide for themselves.

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