GRAVES COUNTY, KY — A $40 million hemp facility is coming to Hickory, Kentucky, and with it — the promise of jobs in both Graves and McCracken County.

GenCanna Global USA Inc.announced it will build a facility in Hickory for extracting, drying, and storing the hemp crop.

That will create at least 80 jobs at that facility alone.

Local 6 spoke to a farmer who says hemp is the future of farming.

“As most farmers, you’re hesitant to change,” says Ron Conyea, who has been farming tobacco for more than 30 years. “And I love what I do. I love growing tobacco.”

Now, he’s making the change to hemp.

He works with GenCanna Global USA Inc. as their grower representative for western Kentucky.

“With it being illegal hemp, I just put it aside. I never dreamed that this would happen,” Conyea says. “But as you can see from our leadership locally and in D.C., it’s here, there’s a great demand for it.”

Conyea says he’s been telling other farms about the hemp program, which is having a big turnout for Graves County.

“It’s a marketable crop, as they spoke about earlier. We’re just waiting for a market. Now that we have that it’s legal now, it’ll be a commodity just like corn and soybeans and tobacco, so we’re ready to go,” Conyea says. “Farmers here are excited.”

GenCanna Global USA Inc. has its headquarters in Winchester, Kentucky. The facility in Hickory will be similar. The company is also creating a location for retail and other purposes in Paducah.

GenCanna President Steve Bevan says refined hemp is made into products such as CBD oil, topical creams, and fruit chews.

He says all those items will be available for purchase at the downtown Paducah location.

“We think it can provide a great example of how an agricultural product can come from Kentucky, and then go to the nation, and the world,” Bevan says.

Conyea says hemp is an easy crop to modify.

“If you give the farmers the ability to grow it, they’ll overproduce it within the next couple of years,” Conyea says.

The hemp crops will be planted next June and harvested into October.

Construction at the downtown Paducah location — the former Amerisource Bergen building — is expected to begin in early 2019. It should be complete by late next year.

The company tells Local 6 the average pay will be more than $24 an hour not including benefits. GennCanna says the total hourly compensation with benefits will be about $32.

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