New technologies behind GenCanna building delays Plant to get harvest, transport elsewhere for '19 processing

ERIC WALKER/The Mayfield Messenger

Construction of GenCanna's hemp processing plant on U.S. 45, north of Mayfield, is behind because of the company's desire to include new technologies, company representatives say. That has led to a plan to receive and weigh farmers' harvested plants in Mayfield, but to bale them and ship them to the company's Winchester plant for further processing.

Hemp processor GenCanna will receive farmers' harvest at the Mayfield plant on U.S. 45 this year, but construction on it will not be done in time to dry and process it there.

Company officials announced a plan earlier this week to weigh the hemp in Mayfield, bale it and transport it to GenCanna's other Kentucky facility in Winchester for further processing. Weigh scales and silos will be ready for the harvest, which should begin within the next three weeks, said Kathryn Robertson, GenCanna's vice president of external relations.

"I think it's important for people to understand we are open for harvest 2019," she said.

However, the Mayfield plant will be ready to dry the fall 2020 crop on-site, Robertson said.

"We're committed to Mayfield," she said. "We're committed to making sure this project is a success."

Robertson said the company has already spoken with contracted farmers about the change in plans. She attributed the delay to multiple design revisions necessary to implement recently developed technology.

"This industry is growing so quickly, and new technologies are coming in monthly," she said, adding, "We'll keep making those revisions to make sure we have state-of-the-art technologies in Mayfield."

The plant is being built as it is designed, Robertson explained, a process those in the construction industry call "design-build."

The company addressed changes in technology being incorporated into the Mayfield plan this week, saying in a statement, "This clearly affects our phased developments at Mayfield. More transformative technology announcements will be made soon."

Robertson wanted to squelch any rumors floating around the community about any potential financial instability within GenCanna, calling them untrue.

"We're absolutely not going bankrupt," she said. "That is false and unfounded."

Some of the rumors could stem from issues with contractors, Robertson said. "We understand some contractors have had complaints about timely payments being made," she said. "We understand that, and we're working to make sure that is resolved."

People driving by could notice fewer workers at the site as construction work is slowing down for now, she said. She said no workers had quit, but she declined to answer a question about any potential lending issues.

Pinnacle Inc. of Benton is the design-build contractor on the project. Contacted by The Mayfield Messenger, Pinnacle president Dennis Smith said Pinnacle and team members are under a nondisclosure agreement with GenCanna.

"So we can't speak about those things," Smith said. "We're contractually obligated not to."

Earlier this week, GenCanna released a statement, saying, in part, "While we are currently working through challenges with our construction partners, we are confident that a resolution will be reached, and business will continue as normal. This planning evolution does not impact our farmers or our hemp production. We are excited about the latest technological advances that we are continually integrating into our design build project that will become our state-of-the-art Graves County Facility."

GenCanna is still hiring seasonal workers to receive the harvest, Robertson said. The company held a job fair Tuesday at West Kentucky Rural Electric Cooperative Corporation, offering $16.50 an hour for 50 people to work from mid-September to mid- to late November as light equipment operators and material handlers, according to a video Graves County Economic Development posted to social media.

GenCanna has roughly $100 million in hemp growing in Kentucky fields currently, the company said. It expanded its acreage this year, going from nearly 1,000 acres to more than 7,000 acres in Kentucky alone.

"We continue to meet our commitment to Kentucky farmers through our Certified Farming Network," GenCanna said in the statement. "We believe in Kentucky farmers and our local Kentucky communities and continue to invest heavily in our family farming partners."