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Murray State Hosts Agricultural Hemp Celebration
By West Kentucky Star Staff
MURRAY - Murray State University and the Hutson School of Agriculture held a kickoff celebration May 29 to recognize foundational partners for its new Center for Agricultural Hemp, as well as to thank Kentucky Congressman James Comer for his work in revitalizing the Commonwealth's hemp industry.

The event took place in the Murray Room of the CFSB Center and featured speakers including Comer, Murray State President Dr. Bob Jackson, Hutson School of Agriculture Dean Dr. Tony Brannon, Assistant Dean Dr. Brian Parr and representatives from each of the center's initial Foundational partners: CV Sciences, Vertical Wellness, GenCanna Global, Unified Ag Holdings, Inc. and Fibonacci HempWood.

"I think we're going to look back in a few years and recognize this as a watershed moment for the University and the Hutson School of Agriculture," Jackson said. "We thank Congressman Comer for his hard work. He has spent a lot of time developing legislation to drive this industry forward, and we appreciate his efforts."

Comer, who first worked as the Kentucky commissioner of agriculture to legalize hemp farming in the Commonwealth with a pilot program in 2014, praised Brannon and Murray State for their foresight in supporting the industry.

"Murray State deserves to be where they are today: one of the leading industrial hemp research and development universities in the United States," Comer said. "It took a lot of courage for Dr. Brannon to take those seeds. No university had planted hemp since World War II. I don't think any other university would have planted hemp seeds if it weren't for Murray State."

The University's leadership within the area of hemp exploration is historic and diverse within higher education. Murray State planted the first legal agricultural hemp research plot on May 12, 2014, with seeds supplied by CV Sciences. Since that time, the University has been on the front line of exploration of the crop, hosting field days while continually working with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, local farmers, researchers, legislators, companies and partners to assist in the development of the industry within the region and commonwealth.

The 2018 Farm Bill, which reclassified hemp as an agricultural commodity, has continued to extend excitement and further interest toward the crop and its many possibilities. In the past five years, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture pilot program has expanded exponentially under the leadership of Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles. The KDA recently approved an expansion in planting to include up to 52,000 acres in the 2019 crop production year, with a substantial amount of this acreage within Murray State's service region.

"We're all building this from the ground up," Brannon said. "This is why industry partner support is so important. We couldn't do this with the help of just one or two of these groups; all these five partners have stepped up and we need even more. They say a rising tide raises all ships, and that couldn't be any more true for this industry."

Parr introduced guests from each partner industry, pointing out their expertise in a wide variety of hemp-related manufacturing outputs spanning CBD oil and food additives to hemp-based flooring.

"What we're doing here is special, but we needed that boost from our partners," Parr said. "They have realized that to grow this industry, it's important that we pool our resources together to research, grow and process hemp."

Established earlier this year, the center will focus on several primary topics and initiatives involving agronomy, cannabinoid science, agribusiness, economics and finance, animal feeds and fibers, education, hemp policy, workforce development and agricultural hemp farming.

The new center will be administered by the University's Hutson School of Agriculture in coordination with industry partners while continuing to position Murray State as a leader in research, education, policy and innovation within the hemp industry.

Published 02:45 PM, Saturday Jun. 01, 2019
Updated 01:12 AM, Saturday Jun. 01, 2019

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