Owner of Old Louisville Pesticide Plant Prepares to Sell

Black Leaf property owner gives Courier-Journal exclusive look inside a property that triggered the state’s biggest ever urban environmental cleanup.

Image result for BLACK LEAF PROPERTY LOUISVILLE KY

Image result for BLACK LEAF PROPERTY LOUISVILLE KY

By JAMES BRUGGERS, The Courier-Journal

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Metal roofing has collapsed.

Trees are growing tall inside buildings. Walls are heavily tagged with graffiti.

And trespassers have set up makeshift camping or lounge areas among the arsenic and long-banned pesticides, having hauled in several couches in recent months – one of them with two small toy dolls left on the cushions.

It’s now about seven years into what Kentucky officials have called their largest urban environmental cleanup, and property owner Tony Young, on a rare tour of what he calls the Louisville Industrial Park, says: “I need to speak my piece. If I don’t do it now, I won’t have any chance.”

The 29-acre property, known by regulators as the Black Leaf site for a tobacco-based pesticide once made there, is scheduled for a foreclosure sale on Friday.

After long-banned pesticides like DDT and other dangerous chemicals or heavy metals were found in the soil, Young said he became unable to pay the $20,000 monthly mortgage he owed to First Capital Bank of Kentucky. He also owes the city nearly $1 million in back property taxes and the Metropolitan Sewer District $200,000 for several years of unpaid drainage fees. But as Young this week faces the loss of the property he’s owned since 1999, he is taking steps to recover financially while he promotes his plan to develop affordable housing for western Louisville.

Young last week sued his bank, a bank holding company, and ExxonMobil, claiming in a U.S. District Court filing that businesses have entered into “a secret deal” that cut him out and could cost him more than $20 million. He said he believes a new business cooperating with the bank and ExxonMobil intend to buy the property in a process that will wipe away the liabilities for the new owner and will allow ExxonMobil’s plan to proceed.

But that plan, he contends, would require a lesser degree of cleanup than his, which would need to meet more stringent standards for residential development.

“I am going to get my money back, one way or the other,” Young told the Courier-Journal. But if the ExxonMobil plan wins the day, “it screws all the community” by leaving chemicals behind and not meeting demand for affordable housing, he added.

Still, his plan does not appear to be going anywhere.

Exxon plan favored

The state of Kentucky instead is casting its provisional blessing on an alternative proposal backed by the giant oil company, Occidental Chemical Corp., and Grief Inc. to get the property ready for recycling it into future industrial or commercial businesses, with the less extensive cleanup that would require. Each of those companies inherited liability for past pollution, state officials have said.

City officials see the foreclosure sale as potentially removing a logjam by getting the property into the hands of a business with the financial ability to bring economic development to the blighted property – and to remove a festering eyesore and safety hazard just two miles from downtown in one of the city’s most troubled neighborhoods.

Park Hill, where the property is located, is one of the crime-riddled communities Louisville Metro Police are focusing extra enforcement efforts in this year, along with Victory Park, Russell, Smoketown, Shawnee, Russell and Shelby Park

Theresa Zawacki, a senior policy adviser for Louisville Forward, the city’s economic development arm, said it is hard to predict the outcome of the foreclosure sale. But she said she expects more than one bidder on the property, now that businesses with liability for the pollution are ready to begin remediation. Friday’s sale is “another step in that process,” she said.

It’s large and directly served by rail, and suitable for industrial purposes, she said. “When things like this come up, there is typically a lot of interest,” she added.

Already, the state and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency teamed up to remove contaminated soil from dozens of homes near the industrial site.

But the Courier-Journal in 2016 reported that Kentucky Division of Waste Management officials had said they could not under state law force a full cleanup to residential standards inside the property. This week, a spokesman for the waste management division, John Mura, said state officials have accepted the technical portions of the ExxonMobil plan “with the caveat that Exxon must be able to demonstrate property access and the ability to place an environmental covenant on the property if necessary.

“To date, Exxon has not demonstrated that ability.”

He said state officials hope the Young lawsuit “does not further delay the restart of remedial work that could begin soon after the property access and ownership issues are resolved.”

Security concerns

Exxon has played a key role in working with the state on a remediation plan.

“ExxonMobil seeks access to the property to meet its environmental and regulatory obligations,” said Todd Spitler, company spokesman. “We continue to work under the direction of (Kentucky regulators) to develop and implement a remedy for this site that is protective of human health and the environment.”

A First Capital Bank of Kentucky representative did not return a request for comment.

Some of the chemicals found on the property have been measured at hundreds to thousands of times higher than state officials consider safe.

Young granted the Courier-Journal its first tour of the property on Monday, where he sought to make a case for his position. He portrayed himself as a man looking out for a neighborhood troubled by drugs and violence. He said he feels his bank, Exxon and state officials turned against him. “I’ve tried my best. I’ve cooperated with the state,” he said.

The Kentucky Resources Council, an environmental group, also supports cleanup to residential standards, said its director, attorney Tom FitzGerald.

That would best help to “redress a burden that the neighbors have borne for entirely too long, and to provide for the broadest range of future uses,” he said. Leaving polluted soils in place shifts costs to the next generation, he said, adding “it may be legal, but it does not make it just or moral.”

Metro Councilman David James, who represents the area, had also been pressing for a cleanup that would do what Young was seeking – allow for residential development.

James said Tuesday he has not yet heard from the state environmental agency on Black Leaf cleanup requirements and is frustrated that a problem discovered in 2010 remains unsolved.

“I would like to have had it resolved five years ago,” he said.

James also said he was concerned to hear that trespassers or squatters may have set up camps by bringing in couches. He said he did not see any of that several months ago on a visit to the property. “It makes it difficult for police because they don’t have access to it,” said James, a former police officer. “It’s private.”

He also said he may need to “find out why Mr. Young is not doing more to prevent people from coming onto the property he owns – like hiring private security.”

For his part, Young said the property is too large to keep everyone out.

James also said he was not aware of any discussions between Young and the city to bring low-income housing to the property. “At this point, Mr. Young has financial interests in the property and is looking for a way to cover his interests,” James said.

Young said he had been working with the nonprofit Housing Partnership Inc., on the low-income housing plan. The partnership has ties to the city – Mayor Greg Fischer is a board member – and several years ago looked into whether a several-hundred unit affordable housing plan was economically feasible prior to the discovery of the contaminated soils.

That kind of contamination “stops development in their tracks,” said Mike Hynes, president of the partnership.

Last year Hynes reiterated his partnership’s interest in the property for low-income housing if the environmental problems could be worked out. But Hynes said: “The property has to be safe for people to live there.”

Details lacking

Young said his cleanup plan, which he said has been rejected, would have piled a lot of contaminated soils in berms, where it would be permanently entombed.

But he also offered no details on its costs.

When the Courier-Journal on Monday requested details on the two cleanup plans from the state, Mura told the Courier-Journal to submit a request for documents under the Kentucky Open Records law because the matter was now in litigation.

The state, however, is not part of that litigation, and the Courier-Journal is still waiting for a response to the records.

For his part, Young tells a story of how what he thought would be a good, $1.9 million investment has turned into a nightmare that’s cost him dearly. He said he had the property checked out by environmental consultants – a bank requirement – before purchasing it, and they found none of the problems that state officials later discovered.

“I tried to do something good here,” he said. “I am still trying to do something good.”

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Tobacco continues to green up Kentucky’s economy

 

 

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August 3, 2016

Tobacco continues to green up Kentucky’s economy

It used to be nearly impossible to drive through Kentucky in August and not see tobacco growing in a field.

In the summer of 1998, the leaf crop accounted for 25 percent of the state’s farm cash receipts and was grown by 46,000 farmers statewide. It was also grown by many of those farmers’ parents and their parents before them. For many, tobacco was Kentucky. 

Today the number of Kentucky tobacco growers has fallen to 4,500, but tobacco is still very much alive across the state. The crop accounts for a fair amount of all agricultural cash receipts– about six percent–at a time when overall agricultural cash receipts are at record levels. And that success is largely due to tobacco, too, says Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy Executive Director Warren Beeler.

Beeler told the state legislative Tobacco Settlement Agreement Fund Oversight Committee today that Kentucky’s dedication of half of the funds received from a 1990s national master settlement with tobacco companies to agricultural diversification is the envy of many states. The appropriation was set out in 2000 House Bill 611 which helped propel the state to a record $6.5 billion in agricultural cash receipts in 2014.

“We are the envy of all states with our tobacco money,” said Beeler. “We’ve gone from $3.7 billion (in total agricultural cash receipts) when we got the (settlement) money to $6.5 billion now, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence….”

Lawmakers thanked Beeler, former GOAP Executive Director Roger Thomas and others for speaking at last month’s Southern Legislative Conference Annual Meeting in Lexington about HB 611’s successes. Committee Co-Chair Rep. Wilson Stone, D-Scottsville, said many delegates to the meeting were impressed with Kentucky’s use of its tobacco settlement dollars to diversify its agricultural economy.

Beeler said he heard from individuals in state after state across the South who said “they wish they’d done what we’d done.” Kentucky’s efforts have almost doubled its receipts at the farm gate, he said.

“It’s no coincidence… Don’t tell me it is, because plain-and-simple fact is we know this money has worked,” he told the committee.

The biggest project in the history of the GOAP and the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board which it administers is a $30 million grain crops and forages center planned for construction on the property of the UK Research and Education Center in Princeton. Half of the project amount, of $15 million, will be provided as a matching grant from the Agriculture Development Board, said Beeler. UK must match the award for the center.

Beeler said the project, which is also supported by the Kentucky Corn Growers Association, Kentucky Small Grain Growers Association, Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association and others, will pay dividends for the next 50 years. Proposed work with ryegrass alone could have a big payoff, he said.

Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, gave special thanks to the Corn Growers Association which Hornback said purchased property for the center that will be leased to UK for repayment. “I appreciate what you all did,” he said to members of the association and all involved in the project.

“Everybody is very appreciative” for this project, Beeler assured lawmakers.

The center will feature new meeting facilities, laboratories, offices and improved internet access “so professors at the center can teach classes for students in Lexington,” according to a press release on the center from the University of Kentucky. “…All commodity areas based at Princeton including beef cattle, forages and pastures and horticulture will benefit from the improvements and expansion.”

–END–

Hemp taking over Kentucky’s tobacco resources; 22 companies investing so far

Image result for farm, 27 acres of hemp grew all summer

By Janet Patton

jpatton1@herald-leader.com

October 25, 2015

WINCHESTER — Tucked away off a narrow country road in Clark County, in the middle of a farm, 27 acres of hemp grew all summer. Now, the plants will be harvested and processed.

Kentucky, hailed as a leader by industrial hemp advocates, has grown the hemp. Now the state is working on growing the industry.

“In two years, we’ve come a long way,” said Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, who is now running for Congress. “We’ve proven first of all that it’s not a drug, which was very important for the opposition to realize. And we’ve proven it’s economically viable, or there wouldn’t be 22 companies that have made an investment in the state. … What we’re doing now is working with the companies that want to go to the next step to commercialize the product. ”

The plants in Winchester are part of the 100 acres of hemp — high in cannabidiol and low in tetrahydrocannabinol (the high-inducing chemical in marijuana) — grown this year for GenCanna, which moved from Canada to Kentucky to be in the heart of the hemp revolution. It deliberately chose to come to Kentucky over other states, including Colorado, because of the agricultural resources and the climate, both meteorological and political.

“We have been in this industry for many years, and we are setting a new bar in Kentucky,” GenCanna CEO Matty Mangone- Miranda said. “Kentucky’s kept the focus on industrial hemp” rather than cloud the issue with other forms of cannabis cultivation, as Colorado has permitted.

Mangone-Miranda, who estimates that hemp could become a billion-dollar industry, said his group is in hemp for the long run.

“The industry is likely to have a bubble, then stabilize with a market of diversified products,” he said, citing potential uses in sports drinks, nutritional products, supplements and more.

GenCanna has invested more than $5 million in Kentucky, according to company officials, although it has yet to see any revenue. That will come once the company is able to deliver a stable source of low-THC/high-CBD hemp.

“The only way to have hemp become an agricultural commodity is to grow lots of it and see what happens,” said Steve Bean, GenCanna’s chief operating officer.

Coming to Kentucky had other benefits, too. Many farmers were eager to get into the crop, which decades ago proliferated in the Bluegrass; hundreds applied to be part of pilot projects to grow hemp. The crop still can legally be grown only in affiliation with the state Department of Agriculture and entities that sign detailed memos of understanding.

Kentucky also has resources that in the past were used for tobacco that have converted well to hemp cultivation.

In fact, GenCanna’s headquarters is now in part of a former Philip Morris office building stuffed with former labs. The place was practically abandoned as the cigarette maker began retreating from Central Kentucky.

And next door is a processing center in a former tobacco seed plant, where GenCanna built a system to turn the chopped-up hemp plants into a sort of dried powder to sell as a nutritional supplement.

The Shell Farm and Greenhouses in Lancaster is turning its fields away from tobacco, growing 157,000 hemp plants on 40 acres outdoors and 3,500 plants in a greenhouse.

“And we’ll be growing it indoors all winter,” Giles Shell said. Shell’s greenhouses once raised flowers; now he’s working on hemp genetics.

“There’s no seed crop, so we have to take cuttings to get the plants in the field. So I’m selecting genetics, for a hardier plant — bigger, fuller,” Shell said. “We’ve got a problem with variegation or chimera, so I trying to select away from it.”

Next year, Shell intends to grow even more hemp.

“We’re going to quit raising our tobacco crop, and if we do any flowers, it will be downsized,” Shell said. “Last year, we raised 120 acres of tobacco. This year, we dropped to 80. Next year, we will drop to none. There’s not a market any more for tobacco and not enough money once you factor in labor and chemical costs.”

Both the offices and the processing center are shared with Atalo Holdings, another hemp entrepreneur company, this one formed by Andy Graves and other Kentuckians working on crushing hemp seed for oil and other fiber production. Graves also grew the 27 acres of hemp for GenCanna.

Other groups, including the Stanley Brothers of Charlotte’s Web CBD oil fame, also are pursuing the hemp’s potential.

Kentucky could be on the cusp of a green revolution — a hemp boom that could go in myriad directions or spiral into a bubble of speculation.

“It could,” Comer acknowledged. But, assuming that sometime in the next two years, Congress makes it legal for anyone to grow hemp, he said Kentucky should be well-positioned, with a jump-start on the infrastructure.

“We get requests every day for companies that want to start processing hemp. I worry that some may not have the credibility of some of the others, and that’s why its taking longer to certify, to get more background info,” Comer said. “We’re not picking winners and losers, but those that have credibility. Our reputations are on the line here, too.”

GenCanna has more contracts with farmers than any other company at this point, Comer said. It’s the only one in the cannabidiol business with signed contracts with national chains to buy their hemp product, he said.

“GenCanna is the real deal,” he said. “And they’ve given me assurances everyone will be paid, and all the farmers are happy.”

The Shell family, which has a three-year contract with GenCanna, certainly is now.

“We were very leery — I was the most reserved in my family of starting to do this,” Giles Shell said. “But … I felt like we were the best route to help commercialize this crop. Demand is really high, and supply isn’t there. Basic economics will tell you that’s profit.

“We’ve got a year ahead of everybody else that’s going to get into the game.”

Janet Patton: (859) 231-3264. Twitter; @janetpattonhl.

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2015/10/25/4104501/hemp-taking-over-kentuckys-tobacco.html#storylink=cpy

The Great Kentucky Hemp Experiment

By Jessica Firger 10/11/15 at 10:05 AM

10_16_Hemp_01

Above:  Western Kentucky University senior Corinn Sprigler helps harvest hemp plants at the WKU Farm in Bowling Green, Kentucky, in September 2014. Hemp potentially could be much more lucrative than tobacco if universities and farmers taking part in the Industrial Hemp Research Program, established by James Comer, Kentucky’s commissioner of agriculture, continue to hone their skills cultivating the crop. Bac To Trong/Daily News/AP

Filed Under: U.S., Hemp, farming, Agriculture, Kentucky

The Shell Farms & Greenhouses is an expansive 1,000-acre property in Garrard County, 37 miles south of Lexington, Kentucky. The five-generation family farm is operated by 31-year-old Giles Shell and his 60-year-old father, Gary. The two are whizzes at making ornamental flowers flourish, and like most farmers in the area, the family has grown tobacco for years.

In late June, the younger Shell stood outside one of six greenhouses on the farm and held up a yellowed tobacco plant with limp rootstock. The Shells know how to save sickly tobacco plants like this one, but they don’t want to anymore. “I’m hoping it’s our last crop,” Shell said.

Along the winding back roads of Central Kentucky’s bluegrass country, horses and cows graze on lush plains. For decades, tobacco helped farmers here keep their families clothed and fed. But that’s changing. Tobacco production facilities have slowly migrated to North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee due to consolidation within the industry, which has resulted in an ever-shrinking demand for the crop in Kentucky. There’s a replacement crop starting to come in, though: The Shell greenhouses that once nurtured thousands of tobacco plants are now home to 3,200 industrial hemp plants.

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hemp_1

Hemp Rescues Kentucky’s Flailing Agriculture Industry

As demand for tobacco diminishes, the state’s farmers are turning to growing cannabis—but not the kind you smoke. slideshow

It’s been close to 70 years since anyone in Kentucky—or anywhere in the U.S.—attempted to legally cultivate industrial hemp in massive quantities. But today, the Shells and other skilled farmers are taking up the cash crop yet again, under the auspices of the five-year pilot Industrial Hemp Research Program, established by James Comer, Kentucky’s commissioner of agriculture, which vets and licenses farmers in the state.

Shifting gears so dramatically hasn’t been easy. The biggest problem is the learning curve: Hemp isn’t tobacco, which means it’s unlike the crop farmers in the area are most familiar with. A major component of the pilot project has involved figuring out the optimal way to make the plant flourish in a much rainier environment than California or Colorado, where most cannabis is currently grown. Farmers have experimented with a number of techniques: covering the beds to prevent over-watering (as you would, for example, with tomatoes) and growing cuttings in flower pots (as they do with ornamental flowers).

And there’s another undeniable challenge: Industrial hemp is really just a few genetic tweaks away from marijuana and outsiders often don’t know one from the other. “When the stuff really starts to flower it has the same look and smell as marijuana. That’s why we have security” to contend with potential plant thieves, says Shell.

The difference between the two cannabis sativa plants is the level of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive chemical compound in the plant that’s responsible for causing the high. In order for cannabis to be considered industrial hemp, it must contain THC levels less than 0.3 percent; any more and the plant has officially crossed over into weed territory.

Currently all cannabis sativa—whether grown to ease chronic pain, get stoned or make rope—is a schedule I controlled substance, a result of the Controlled Substances Act passed by Congress in 1970, though state marijuana laws have changed some of the classifications at local levels. This is viewed as unfortunate by marijuana activists, but also by many in the agriculture industry, including Comer. He hopes to single-handedly turn industrial hemp into Kentucky’s No. 1 cash crop—and in the process, breathe new life into family farms that have lost millions of dollars with the fall of the tobacco industry.

Most industrial hemp is grown in China. With the right processing methods, the highly versatile plant can provide several notable revenue streams. Cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical compound in the plant, can be extracted from the leaves, blossoms and stems for medicinal and nutraceutical purposes. Cannabis oil derived from cold-pressing seeds is a healthful alternative to the oils sitting on most kitchen shelves, and it is already used in a number of cosmetic and beauty products. Other genetic variants of the plant are cultivated to produce fiber that can substitute for cotton, wood and plastic—a more sustainable way to make everyday products ranging from T-shirts to particleboard and even car dashboards.

And then there’s the potential for food. Hemp seed—high in fiber, antioxidants, omega-3s and protein—has a mild, nutty taste akin to flax. With the right marketing it could become the industry’s next superfood. It would also make for nutrient-packed animal feed.

Kentucky has a long, but mostly forgotten, history of hemp farming. The Speed family, intimately close friends of Abraham Lincoln, were hemp farmers in the state, as was Henry Clay, the 19th century statesman. Kentucky led the U.S. industrial hemp business until the end of the Civil War, when production of the crop declined and was generally replaced by tobacco. The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 put the kibosh on all production and sales of cannabis, including industrial hemp, but the crop saw a rapid resurgence during World War II. Hemp fiber became essential to produce military necessities such as uniforms and parachutes. The U.S. Department of Agriculture launched its national “Hemp for Victory” program, which provided seeds and draft deferments to farmers. In 1942, farmers planted 36,000 acres of hemp seed. A USDA-funded informational film from that year noted that “hemp grows so luxuriantly in Kentucky that harvesting is sometimes difficult.”

With backing from Senator Rand Paul, Comer’s proposed legislation—Senate Bill 50—passed in 2013. It created a regulatory framework for farmers to legally grow hemp in the state. In addition, Paul and Comer were able to get a provision added to the federal Farm Bill that legalized hemp production in states like Kentucky that had programs set up to grow the crop. The bill was signed by President Obama in 2014.

10_16_Hemp_02 Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky has backed the efforts of Comer to return hemp to its historical position as one of the Bluegrass State’s cash crops. Its history in Kentucky includes even Abraham Lincoln, whose in-laws grew hemp, as well as Henry Clay, the 19th century statesman. Kentucky led the U.S. industrial hemp business until the end of the Civil War, when production of the crop declined and was replaced by tobacco. Carlos Barria/Reuters

Though state and federal lawmakers support the efforts, Comer says it hasn’t been easy for Kentucky’s agriculture department or any of the farmers in the pilot program. Last year was the first for Kentucky’s pilot program, but it yielded only 33.4 acres of industrial hemp in the state. The farmers were capable of growing much more, but the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has made it challenging, says Comer. The DEA’s cannabis eradication program provides funding to local law enforcement to form a SWAT team of “cowboys flying around in helicopters.” They have been known to sweep through private farms to confiscate the plants, and have even been known to mistake okra for marijuana.

Despite all this, the project has nearly doubled its hemp production this year, and at least 500 people in the state are now employed at it as a result. Comer says he hopes farmers will soon be able to grow at least 10,000 acres. “We want to be the Silicon Valley for industrial hemp,” he says. The state’s backcountry has already become fertile ground for startups like GenCanna Global, which has partnered with six local farms to grow hemp for CBD.

Matty Mangone-Miranda, GenCanna’s president and chief executive officer, and Chris Stubbs, its chief scientific officer, conducted early work to cultivate low-THC, high-CBD cannabis plants formerly called “hippie’s disappointment”—since it doesn’t cause a high—and now known as Charlotte’s Web. It’s produced by the Realm of Caring Foundation as a dietary supplement under federal law and as medical cannabis for sale in states that allow for its use. The story of Charlotte’s Web first came to public light in 2013, when CNN aired Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s documentary Weed, featuring Charlotte Figi, a 5-year-old with a rare refractory epilepsy disorder known as Dravet syndrome that caused her to have up to 300 seizures per week. The Figis were preparing to sign “do not resuscitate” forms for their daughter when a friend connected them with the founders of the company, and the girl gained nearly complete seizure control once she started ingesting the CBD oil.

After the CNN documentary ran, Realm of Caring couldn’t keep up with the resulting high demand, says Mangone-Miranda. They still have thousands of families on their waiting list. “The lack of supply of oil was a huge problem,” he explains. “For me, the logical solution was that we needed a massive, sustainable and reliable supply.” To solve the problem, GenCanna has invested in Kentucky’s farms with the goal of planting 200,000 plants that are genetically similar to Charlotte’s Web in 2015.

Now, GenCanna has an increasing list of companies looking to purchase CBD oil to develop novel products that have absolutely nothing to do with treating rare seizure disorders or making healthy granola. The company has received proposals for CBD-infused sports drinks, wine, beer, Listerine-type fresh breath strips and transdermal patches.

Over the summer, GenCanna, along with Atalo Holdings—another hemp cooperative—purchased a 147-acre former tobacco seed development and breeding facility in Winchester, Kentucky. Along with storage, processing, formulating and shipping buildings, their new Hemp Research Campus includes an over-8,000-square-foot laboratory with breeding rooms. The two companies hope the Hemp Campus will serve as an incubator for the industry, says Steve Bevan, GenCanna’s chief operating officer. “With the Hemp Campus we think we can bring more and smarter people here,” he says. GenCanna and other companies hope to plant their flags before imminent changes in federal and state cannabis regulations allow Big Pharma to enter the picture. “They’re going to throw money in a big way, so we want to understand as much as possible because we have a belief that this stuff is food.”

There is currently a bill in U.S. Congress that would reclassify hemp from a narcotic to an agricultural crop. If the law were to pass, it would minimize the red tape for established hemp farming programs. For example, says Comer, “we won’t have to send staff to a field to do GPS coordinates and then get that information to the state police and all this bureaucracy.”

Despite the regulations and red tape, industrial hemp has already been a saving grace for some of the farmers in the pilot program. The Halverson family, for example, was preparing to shutter their operation, which primarily grew ornamental plants, until GenCanna approached them. The company offered to pay the rent for their property, cover all expenses upfront—including a refurbishing of the greenhouse—and provide salaries to the family and a staff of more than 20. One condition: They would turn all their energies to cultivating hemp and work with GenCanna to learn how to grow this complicated plant and find a way to breed the best version of the plant that is stronger and more aggressive.

hemp_8 Tobacco farmers only earn the equivalent of about 4 cents per pack of cigarettes. It’s still uncertain how much revenue hemp will bring into Kentucky’s agriculture business but the farming community is hopeful. Jessica Firger for Newsweek

In the beginning, the Halversons were skeptical. The family are Sabbath-keeping Christians, and it was hard to know what their neighbors would think. But by that time the family had run out of money and options other than to close the farm. So they went for it.

At first, they were the subject of the weekly gossip at church. “You get to finishing some choral music, and then the conversation after is ‘Are you guys really growing that stuff?’” says Mikkel Halverson. “We feel that growing hemp is more than just work—it is a way we can help those in need. It is part of a healing ministry.” Now, the Halversons’ 36,000-square-foot greenhouse overflows with thousands of hemp plants.

Halverson knows he could probably make a lot more money if he grew the type of cannabis that gets people high, but his family has decided they will not grow a version of hemp that could potentially be smoked, no matter how skilled they become at farming the crop. “I think God made all of the plants,” he says. ”But we’re going to stick with CBD hemp.”

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A Kentucky company used local tobacco to help produce an experimental serum to fight Ebola,

 

 

 

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A Kentucky company used local tobacco to help produce an experimental serum to fight Ebola, which may help save two American aid workers stricken with the deadly disease.

David Howard, a spokesman for Reynolds American Services, said Owensboro-based Kentucky BioProcessing complied with a request from Emory University Hospital in Atlanta and Samaritan’s Purse this week “to provide a limited amount” of the compound, called ZMapp.

Kentucky BioProcessing, which was acquired by North Carolina-based Reynolds American Inc. in January, does contract work for many clients, including ZMapp maker Mapp Biopharmaceutical of San Diego.

Howard couldn’t confirm that the compound was used on the aid workers, and Emory officials didn’t respond by deadline to a call or email seeking confirmation. But The Associated Press, CNN and other media outlets reported that the aid workers have gotten the serum and have improved.

The fact that a Kentucky company focused on plant-based science played a part “is fantastic,” said Kenneth Palmer, a University of Louisville professor who is involved in tobacco-based research in Owensboro but not in this project. “The more that (medicines) made in plants are used, the better the acceptance. … It gives tangible evidence of how what we do can be applied to help people.”

Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pointed out that ZMapp is not a proven treatment for Ebola but said it’s a good example of the intriguing science of growing medicines in tobacco plants.

“We’d love to see tobacco used for health,” said Frieden, who was in Hazard, Ky., on Tuesday for a series of talks on health problems in Appalachia. But he added, “We don’t have proven treatments or vaccines against Ebola. … This Ebola outbreak is the biggest, worst, most complicated one that the world has ever seen.”

Howard said tobacco helps in the production of ZMapp, acting like a “photocopier” to mass-produce proteins used to make the serum. Palmer said three, single-gene antibodies are put into trays of plants at Kentucky BioProcessing and replicate the antibodies after about 10 days.

Palmer likened it to antibodies being produced in the bodies of people or animals after an infection.

“What the plants are doing is pumping out the antibodies,” Palmer said. “The plants are used to make the antibodies, and then they purify the antibodies.”

“It’s faster than more traditional methods,” Howard added. “It allows for rapid growth of proteins … on a reasonably large scale.”

At the direction of Mapp, the Kentucky company developed a precursor to ZMapp, called MB-003, which was tested in non-human primates and showed good results, published last August in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Researchers said the treatment previously had been shown to protect all the primates when it was given an hour after exposure to Ebola, and two-thirds of them when given 48 hours after exposure.

‘We’d love to see tobacco used for health.’

Dr. Tom Frieden, director Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

In the study published last year, researchers said, 43 percent of infected primates recovered after getting the treatment intravenously up to 120 hours after they were infected and had developed symptoms.

ZMapp was never tested in humans, but even before the latest Ebola outbreak, the companies had planned later this year to begin the federal process to get the drug approved, Howard said.

Meanwhile, tobacco plants also will be used to develop a gel to prevent the transmission of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. University of Louisville researchers announced this week they will lead the international effort, which is being funded by a five-year, $14.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

The gel — designed to be used during sexual intercourse by people at risk for HIV — is developed using a synthetic copy of a protein found in red algae shown to act against HIV in the lab.

Research is also underway at Louisville using tobacco plants to produce a cheaper version of the vaccine against human papillomavirus, which causes most cervical cancer.

University of Louisville President James Ramsey said all of the tobacco-based research is exciting, particularly in a state where smoking kills at the highest rate in the nation.

“It is ironic,” Ramsey said in an interview Tuesday. “We’ve been a tobacco state, and it’s been such a part of our economy, and it’s pretty amazing that they can take tobacco and potentially solve some of the biggest health problems around the world.”

Laura Ungar also reports for The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal

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Kentucky reaches settlement with Big Tobacco

Adam Beam, AP Business Writer 6:04 p.m. EDT June 12, 2014

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Tobacco companies have agreed to pay Kentucky more than $110 million to settle a 10-year legal battle over the state’s share of the tobacco master settlement agreement.

In 1998, U.S. tobacco companies agreed to pay $229 billion to 52 states and territories over many years to compensate them for the costs of treating smoking-related illnesses. The companies also agreed to advertising restrictions, including a ban on marketing to youth.

Lots of smaller tobacco companies did not participate in the settlement and were not subject to its restrictions. Kentucky agreed to charge those companies more taxes as a way to level the playing field with the bigger tobacco companies.

But in 2003, the big tobacco companies accused Kentucky of not collecting all of the taxes it was supposed to. As a result, they withheld some of Kentucky’s annual payments. State officials and tobacco companies have been fighting over those disputed payments since 2003.

In September, a federal arbitrator ruled Kentucky did not do all it could to collect the taxes. Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway challenged that arbitration ruling in court. But the state was in danger of losing all of its tobacco settlement payments – tens of millions of dollars each year that paid for a range of agricultural, public health and early childhood education programs.

That’s why in November, Conway said he began secret negotiations with the tobacco companies in hopes of reaching a settlement.

“There was no end in sight,” Conway said. “Given the time, value of money and the needs of this state and the agricultural community and our health community right now, I think it’s a good deal for the state.”

According to the terms of the agreement — which Conway signed on Wednesday — Kentucky will get $110.4 million of the disputed payments in the 2014 fiscal year, bringing the state’s total payments to $158.7 million. Going forward, tobacco companies will pay Kentucky 45% of the disputed payments.

Kentucky is the 23rd state to settle this dispute with the tobacco companies.

“By joining 22 other states in settling, Kentucky escapes that chaotic landscape of future legal battles as well as saves itself from the financial and administrative cost of litigating these decades-old events,” Beshear said.

Denise F. Keane, executive vice president and general counsel of Altria — the parent company of Philip Morris — called the settlement good for both parties.

“We have always said we are open to resolving these disputes in a manner that makes sense to the states and to us, and that remains the case,” she said in a news release.

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Kentucky Ag Commissioner Gives Farmers Green Light To Grow Hemp

 

Agriculture Commissioner James Comer says he hopes Kentucky farmers plant hemp in April.

Reported by: Aaron Adelson

Email: aadelson@wtvq.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AAdelsonABC36

 

Agriculture Commissioner James Comer says he hopes Kentucky farmers plant hemp in April.

 
“We used to grow tobacco on the farm and now basically we just have cattle and grow hay, and it just

seems like a good alternative crop,” said Steven Albert, a farmer from Green County. 

Albert came to a Hemp Commission meeting to learn more. 

The state legalized industrialized hemp if federal law would allow it.

Well, the U.S. Department of Justice announced it would not prosecute the two states that legalized marijuana.  Furthermore,

Comer says the man who wrote the memo testified the government would not prosecute hemp farmers.

Comer says this gives Kentucky the green light.

“This is a very exciting first step, and we’ll just have to see.

History will decide whether this was a defining moment in Kentucky agriculture, or not,” said Comer.

He and Senator Rand Paul plan to send the DOJ a letter announcing the state’s intent to move forward.
“I can’t imagine why they would be opposed to it,” said Comer.
Things are moving quickly, but farmers like Albert need to learn how to grow hemp.

“Farmers in Green County know how to grow tobacco, tomatoes, anything you can think of,

but when I ask them how do you grow hemp?  How do you harvest hemp?  Most of them say they don’t know,” said Albert.

The state needs to work out some regulatory issues before anybody puts seeds in the ground.

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