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A Kentucky Small Farmer's Lifeline

Guest column: A Kentucky small farmer's lifeline
BY JOE TRIGG Guest Columnist

For those of you not aware of it, there has been a low-keyed push for the legalization of hemp and/or at least medical marijuana use/production here in Kentucky. These actions have resulted in multiple research projects for hemp which have gained interest across the state.
On Oct 11, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture held their first-ever Industrial Hemp Pilot Program - Applicant Information and Networking Session for Growers and Processors with over 700 RSVP's for the event. I was there along with several other folks from Barren County interested in finding out facts about what was going on in our state concerning the hemp and marijuana industry.
Prior to this meeting, I had talked to representatives from both parties about my concerns of large corporate entities moving into Kentucky, to take advantage of these new agriculture opportunities and leaving us small farmers on the side. After conversations with multiple farmers in five counties, I suggested the following ideas to representatives from both sides of the aisle:

Let’s make this a truly KY Proud Program:
1. Utilize/dust off/revamp some attributes of the old tobacco allotment system
A. Limit and spread production among all farmers
1. Max per farm of 1 acre of each product (hemp and medical marijuana)
B. Engage Farm Service Agency (FSA) and County Extension office
1. Identify farmers that are part of program
2. Manage the program and assist in growing

C. Relook at the synergy of local money (late 1990’s article AEC-83, by UK Extension Service laying out what an acre of tobacco does for the state). It is estimated that Kentucky had over 4 billion in illegal sales of marijuana in 2016.
Kentucky small farmers need this lifeline and let there be no doubt that inactivity on our behalf will result in another lost opportunity. At one point over 2/3 of all Kentucky farmers raised tobacco in one form or another and we were the No. 1 state in burley tobacco production. The income generated was the life blood for most of those farmers; it paid the “bank” mortgage, it paid property taxes, it put a lot of kids through college, and in most cases it gave us a little something special for Christmas.
The biggest winner was it generated an almost 1 to 10 ratio in “tax revenue” for federal, state and local governments. There was pride associated with our being good at growing the best product for the market and based on estimates of what is generated illegally I would say that pride still exist. The most important aspect of an established program is it could be the final act that encourages young kids to keep the small family farm. I encourage everyone to speak with their local city, county, state, and federal government representatives.
Trigg is a Glasgow resident and was recently elected to serve on the Glasgow City Council beginning in January.

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