The 2018 Farm Bill lead to sweeping changes for hemp farming across the United States. The Bill introduced a new world of possibilities for the farmers and the legal use of the marijuana plant.

hemp farmer

Until the recent passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, or Agriculture Improvements Act of 2018 production of industrial hemp within the United States was limited by regulatory restrictions due to its association with marijuana.  With the passing of this bill, hemp has been reclassified for commercial use, distinguishing the crop from marijuana and removing it from the Controlled Substances Act.  Prior to this passage, the market for industrial hemp in the United States has been primarily dependent upon imports from countries with an established industry.

Contrary to marijuana, industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa L), contains no more than 0.3 percent delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Grown for industrial, non-drug purposes, the crop lends itself for use in a large variety of products including, but not limited to, agricultural, textiles, automotive parts, furniture, food and beverages, paper, construction materials and personal care items.

Yet individual state laws slow adoption for farmers to tap into the benefits of this federal legislation.  That said, only a select few states are yet to allow the legal cultivation of hemp. In fact, Mississippi, South Dakota, and Idaho are the only states with zero hemp farming. All other U.S. states approve the production of hemp for research, commercial, or pilot schemes.  While some states allow hemp planting strictly for research or pilot programs, others grant full licensing for commercial production.

Here’s a look at states with full licensing of industrial hemp across the U.S.:

Arizona

Arizona has taken commendable steps towards providing a regulatory framework for farmers looking to diversify from cotton. The state initiated legalization of industrial hemp cultivation and processing with a licensing and certification program. Even with the state’s support, many are still concerned about the potential risks of cultivating hemp for Cannabidiol (CBD).

Arizona, unlike states with more solid hemp regulatory structures, is still at the rules and regulations development phase. Among others, the state still looks to regulate crops that exceed the standard under 0.3% THC level. Most likely, as with other states, Arizona may adopt the destruction of crops that tests over the THC legal benchmark.

California

California had, as of 2019, approved industrial hemp farming at the commercial level.

While many other states require state-level registration of farmers, California farmers’ registration is also with the county that houses their prospect hemp field. Allowing individual registration requirements at county levels may cause even more confusion. Imagine each of the 58 county commissioners interpreting state laws in their ways. In fact, 30 counties have added several forms of unique restrictions regarding industrial hemp farming.

Colorado

Colorado’s industrial hemp practices are well in shape. In fact, Colorado proudly lands among a select few states qualified for Whole-Farm Revenue Protection-approved insurance.

21,578 acres of industrial hemp were cultivated in 2018. The numbers are expected to continue to increase.

Georgia

Georgia joined the bandwagon after Gov. Brian Kemp signed the Georgia Hemp Farming Act into law. Approved on May 10, 2019, the state act regulates research, farming, and processing of industrial hemp.

Standard across states, Georgia farmers are required to pass a criminal background check as well as provide GPS coordinates at farming sites, etc. to get licensed by the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

Indiana

After extensive critical debate on the topics of hemp, Indiana eventually joined other licensed states.

In the wake of the 2014 Farm Bill, Purdue University cultivated hemp of up to 24 acres. The Bill opened the doors for some institutions to cultivate the plant for research purposes.

In 2018, Governor Eric Holcomb had expressed doubts about the states’ readiness to regulate the crop appropriately. Surprisingly, in 2019, Holcomb came on board, openly expressing support of the hemp program.

Kentucky

Kentucky’s Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Programs provide excellent prospects for its participants.

Ryan Quarles, Kentucky Commissioner, said the state’s objective is to place the state farmers to grow into top producers of industrial hemp, across the U.S.

Kentucky has seen robust growth in recent years. In 2014, the first year of its establishment, a total of 33 acres were cultivated. Four years after, 6, 700 acres were grown, and 6,000 harvested.

All farmers who seek to participate in the hemp industry must do so by obtaining a license to plant, process, and sell hemp.

Maine

Maine may not be a strong promoter of hemp. Its legality structure hasn’t attracted lots of farmers in the state.

As of 2016, the state received only two grower agreements and three applications. The following year the record jumped to 32 agreements and 535 applicants. 2018 recorded 61 agreements and 104 agreements.

Nevada

Nevada has minimal hemp farming restrictions, which many farmers have capitalized on. Licensed farmers can cultivate as much field as they desire as long as the production is in zoned areas.

Minnesota

Hemp farming drew heavy interest from Minnesota farmers as corn and soybean prices flatlined and a fast-growing market for CBD oil emerged from nowhere. More than 500 growers and processors secured licenses under the state’s industrial hemp pilot program last year.

Hemp rules give Minnesota farmers little room for error with law enforcement. Rules meant to keep THC levels low keep farmers on the edge of breaking law. Seed technology is in its infancy. The rules give farmers little room for error.

Thirty growers in Minnesota were ordered to destroy their crops in 2019 after they tested too high for THC. But even as the state Department of Agriculture ordered farmers to destroy their crops, it asked the federal government to loosen new rules set to take effect later this year. Such skeptical states hope to get more explicit guidelines to work with to ensure the USDA approves their hemp program proposals without hassles. After submission, the U.S Department of Agriculture may reject or approve a proposed plan within 60 days.

Montana

Industrial hemp licensing in Montana involves two stages. The first stage, conditional grower license, is granted to eligible farmers to purchase hemp seeds and cultivate them. The second is a production certification, usually issued after planting in line with all regulatory provisions.

Ministry of Hemp places Montana, top on the list of states to farm hemp in the United States.

North Dakota

Doug Goehring, Commissioner of Agriculture, seems to know the right way to handle industrial hemp concerns. Goehring has tried to regulate industrial hemp to suit the people’s wishes.

Hemp growing was first allowed in North Dakota in 2017, as part of the hemp pilot scheme. In 2019, the state granted licenses to 64 growers with plans to cultivate 4,000 acres of the industrial hemp plant.

North Dakota, as with Minnesota, continues to run its hemp activities under the pilot program, pending when USDA issues its regulations.

This pilot scheme requires that farmers explain the nature of the research they desire to embark on with the crop.

Oregon

Oregon has always been known for its robust hemp farming niche. In fact, before the 2018 Farm Bill, Oregon’s hemp program granted any interested farmer and business access to hemp cultivation.

On March 19, 2019, the state had recorded 751 growers planning to cultivate 22,435 acres across Oregon. Even more are expected. 2020 looks promising for industrial hemp farmers.

South Carolina

South Carolina had, in March of 2019, increased the numbers of farmers who had access to the hemp program. Also, new legislation increased the land space that each farmer can access. The state’s Department of Agriculture’s hemp program had earlier limited license issuance to 40 permits and a 40 acres’ limit per license.

Tennessee

Tennessee stands among states with the most robust hemp farming system. The state, in 2019, offered licenses to over 2,900 hemp growers.

Changes in hemp farming regulations were deferred in 2019, in a bid to consider hemp farmers’ welfare. Among others, the state granted all-year-round access to licensing procedures for farmers. Besides, processors are no longer required to go through the Department of Agriculture.

Virginia

Virginia experienced some remarkable hemp-based events in 2019. Hemp law amendments removed the clause that hemp can be grown solely for research programs, thereby commercializing hemp production.

Over 800 farmers had, as of July 2019, registered for hemp farming licensing.

Vermont

Vermont recorded good numbers with regards getting hemp farmers on board.

Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, in 2019, licensed 1,000 hemp cultivators and processors – double 2018’s record. 820 out of the 1,000 participants are farmers.

Vermont, as well, recorded a 137% growth in acres of land designated for hemp farming. 7,800 acres of land had been allocated for hemp farming as of 2019.

Currently, the state’s hemp regulations are under public scrutiny.

West Virginia

This state is at the top of their game as regards exploring the full potentials of the new hemp laws. While developing the products is not their strong point, they enjoy favorable legislation and support.

As with other states and while West Virginia awaits federal regulation, they have so far maintained a healthy state-based guide.

In 2019, the state’s Department of Agriculture granted 158 licenses expected to cultivate 2, 531 acres of land across the state.

The Wrap

The 2018 Farm Bill lead to sweeping changes for hemp farming across the United States. The Bill introduced a new world of possibilities for the farmers.  Each state is left to it’s own devices.  Restrictions by individual state agriculture departments may hinder some hemp growers. While the 2018 Farm Bill creates an avenue for hemp farmers to cash in big on the crop, state laws may slow these opportunities.  Yet, the underlying potential is massive.  Progressive states are embracing this change and opening up the new economic opportunity of industrial hemp.

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