LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — The bankruptcy of a major hemp processor is raising new questions about the future of the crop in Kentucky.
Last summer, GenCanna was applauded as the first industrial hemp company to sponsor the Kentucky State Fair. But now, five months later, GenCanna is headed to bankruptcy court.
Despite the setback, hemp supporters, such as Mary Lipginski of Whispering Oaks Farm in Spencer County, said they are still optimistic.
“You have risk, and you accept those risks. It’s a way of life,” Lipginksi said. “With a crop like hemp, there is financial risk, but the gains are going to be good, too.”
Lipginski said she is moving ahead with plans to plant hemp on her farm next season.
“It’s the crop of the future,” she said. “We haven’t had a new crop in this country since soybeans.”
Lipginski is used to risk. Whispering Oaks Farm has been in her family for more than 100 years.
“I have horses. There’s risk to that,” she said. “They get sick. They lay down. They die.”
She believes hemp can grow into a long-term winner.
“It’s a new wave of a farm product that is going to be, I think, great for farmers,” she said.
But for now, Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said the hemp industry is experiencing growing pains.
“All 200-plus hemp companies we have in Kentucky are, by definition, startups,” Quarles said. “And from what we know of startup culture, some companies will enter and exit the market.”
Quarles said part of the problem is uncertainty about federal regulations for hemp products.
“A lot of our companies grew expecting the FDA to release a regulatory framework, which they have yet to do,” he said. “We’re entering year No. 7 with hemp being grown legally in Kentucky, and yet the FDA has yet to act and tell the industry which way they’re going to regulate hemp-derived products.”
Lipginski said one key to success with hemp, like any other crop, is doing your homework and partnering with the right people.
“You develop a network,” she said. “You talk to people that know what they’re doing, and you continue to learn.”
Lipginski said her big concern about growing hemp next year is not the market but the weather.
“We’re just hoping the weather will be better, cooperate better,” she said.
Quarles said his office will continue to caution both farmers and processors of the potential risks.
“In the long-term, Kentucky will have a hemp industry,” Quarles said. “But as this industry continues to grow nationally, we’re starting to see an unstable market continue to experience growing pains.”
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