Hemp homecoming: Rebirth sprouts in Kentucky
In Vermont, about 12 farms registered to grow hemp, said Alison Kosakowski, a spokeswoman for the state's Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets. The agency doesn't know how many producers ended up planting a hemp crop.
The intentions were much bigger in Colorado. There were 56 registrations for commercial hemp production and 76 more for research and development, according to Ron Carleton, the state's deputy agriculture commissioner.
Unavailability of seed likely kept "a fairly significant" number of applicants from getting hemp in the ground, he said. Some farmers able to produce a crop this year may harvest the seeds to grow next year's crop, he said.
In Kentucky, the crop is being studied by researchers at a half-dozen Kentucky universities.
Eastern Kentucky University researchers recently harvested their small hemp plot. Those plants reached seven feet tall.
"It seems to be fairly easy to grow," said EKU agriculture professor Bruce Pratt. "The plants got established so quickly that they shaded out the weeds."
A 2013 report by the Congressional Research Service pegged hemp imports at $11.5 million in 2011, a tiny sum relative to other imported crops.
If widespread U.S. production is someday allowed, states able to attract processors close to where the crop is grown will be the winners, said University of Kentucky agricultural economist Will Snell.
"It's a small, niche market, but it's growing," he said. "We can grow it. The problem is, other states and other countries can grow it as well."