Industrial hemp champion Kelly Rippel wants to light a fire under state and federal lawmakers to reform the agricultural policy framework to better support the cultivation of a crop farmed by seven U.S. presidents before the industry was dismantled across the country.

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, Zachary Taylor, and Franklin Pierce grew the tall, leafy plant. The emphasis wasn’t on the version of cannabis packed with the psychoactive component THC but the incarnation useful in manufacturing rope, textiles, paper, and other goods. In the United States, forces moved in the 1930s to restrain hemp production, and the 1970s war on drugs cleared it from domestic fields.

Rippel, cofounder of Kansans for Hemp, founding president of Planted Association of Kansas as well as a member of the Kansas Department of Agriculture’s hemp research advisory panel, said a tough learning curve for growers, inclement weather and the immature supply chain restrained producer interest in the crop.

He said Kansas would benefit from lowering barriers to entry into hemp production as a crop. He expressed optimism during an interview for the Kansas Reflector podcast that help was coming from state regulators and legislators and through the writing of the 2023 federal Farm Bill.