As PJ Sneed has been building infrastructure for his future industrial hemp farm in western Reno County, the state’s research plan is also moving to the next stage.

The Kansas Department of Agriculture announced last week that it was officially accepting applications from growers who want to participate in the state’s industrial hemp research program, which was created last April when legislators passed the Alternative Crop Research Act.

KDA spent the past year hosting public forums and establishing rules and regulations for the program. In the meantime, Sneed was clearing land, establishing a cover crop and building a barn in preparation for the application process.

“I’m very excited; for me, it’s been a long time coming,” Sneed said. “It has for a lot of people, especially the grassroots movement. We’ve all been waiting for this moment.”

Applications for the program are due to KDA by March 1 and can be found online at www.agriculture.ks.gov/industrialhemp.

Commercial growing

As KDA was working on rules and regulations, the federal government declassified industrial hemp as a schedule 1 controlled substance as part of the 2018 Farm Bill.

Previous to the federal farm bill, Kansas could only establish a research program for hemp growing and still be in line with federal laws, but now the state is open to establishing commercial growing if the legislature so chooses.

“State law still only allows for research in Kansas, so legislation would have to pass through to bring us up in line with federal law,” said KDA Communications Director Heather Lansdowne. “So nothing is changing yet, the law that passed last spring and the regulations that go with it are what’s on the books.”

With the knowledge that federal laws may allow for commercial hemp, KDA wrote a law that requires KDA plans to be in line with the minimum federal laws. If the state passes additional laws to allow industrial hemp, public meetings and the development of rules and regulations will still have to occur.

Lansdowne said the earliest a plan would be in place would likely be 2020.

Sneed agreed, saying that he thinks the state will see a large increase in hemp growers in the second year.

“I think in year two you’ll see a huge boom after people see what it is and how it’s grown,” he said. “In 2020 I think you’ll start to see more banks open up for commercial loans and things like that.”

The application process will include background checks and more. Sneed said it can seem like a daunting process.

Symposium

In anticipation of the upcoming research program, The Hemp Biz Conference has partnered with the Planted Association of Kansas, of which Sneed is a member, to host a symposium on hemp growing in Hutchinson on Feb. 23.

The symposium will help farmers network, find markets and more, but this year Sneed said a big focus will be the application.

“We’re really going to hammer rules and regulations, as well as how to get applications in,” he said.

The conference will include speakers broaching topics such as the Farm bill, fundamentals of growing hemp, plant varieties for different products and more. The one-day event will take place at Cottonwood Court on the Kansas State Fairgrounds.

“We want to protect everyone we can,” Sneed said. “And make sure they have information on everything they need from equipment to insurance to plants.”

More information on the Kansas Hemp Symposium can be found at www.thehempbizconference.com.