FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky has licensed 445 hemp growers to cultivate up to 12,000 acres in 2021 as the hemp market continues to face “supply-chain issues,” the state’s agriculture commissioner said.

The state Agriculture Department also licensed 140 hemp processors and handlers for this year, Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said Thursday.

“These new numbers, while down, reflect what many industry experts have been expecting for a year or so,” Quarles said in a news release. “The nation’s hemp market continues to face supply-chain issues and uncertainty given the Food and Drug Administration’s inability to provide a regulatory framework for hemp-derived cannabidiol, or CBD, products.”

The Agriculture Department said it oversaw 970 licensed growers and 178 processors in 2020.

Despite lingering uncertainties, Quarles said he remains confident about long-term prospects for the U.S. hemp market. And Kentucky’s hemp sector will remain “the leader on the national stage after the dust settles,” he said.

Kentucky hemp processors and handlers reported $130 million in gross product sales in 2020, compared with $193 million the prior year, the department said, citing information provided by processors in an end-of-year filing.

A review of states with hemp programs showed that 30 of 40 states reported reduced or significantly reduced applications for 2021, Kentucky officials said.

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