Hemp pilot project could mean more jobs

Farming is nothing new to Bill Clift, who planted his first crop when he was in the eighth grade. After decades of farming in Caldwell County, he’s still learning.

There’s a new crop in town: industrial hemp. Clift is used to soybeans, corn, and wheat, but this year he decided to set aside 30 acres to be a part of this pilot project. In western Kentucky, 256 acres were approved to be used for the learning experience.

Clift said growing the hemp has involved a bit of trial and error. “There are a lot of challenges to growing a new crop when you have no knowledge of what it's going to do or how to grow it,” Clift said. Those challenges include getting rid of Johnson and crab grass. There are no crop protection chemicals for hemp yet.

In one of Clift’s fields, you can see a clean line of separation between the staple crop of his family for decades, corn, and the future, a weedy area full of industrial hemp.

Although he won’t likely turn a profit this year, Clift says it’s not about getting rich at this point. It’s about learning the crop.

“I wanted in on the ground floor of it, not only for myself, but for our community and possibly our state," Clift said. "Because if we can grow hemp successfully here we are going to have to have processing facilities.”

Those facilities would bring jobs. Adam Watson with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture said “Industrial Hemp will require processing after the farm, so those processing opportunities will come with jobs for the larger community."

Clift sees a lot of potential in industrial hemp, including for food, medicine, and building supplies.

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