After over 80 years of prohibition, it is now legal to grow industrial hemp in the United States. The passing of the Farm Bill into law in December 2018 took the plant off the list of controlled substances.
You can grow industrial hemp for seed or fiber, and there are varieties for both purposes. That being said, most farmers grow hemp for CBD in what is becoming a lucrative industry.
The assumption was that industrial hemp automatically became legal due to the Farm Bill. In reality, each state was responsible for submitting pilot programs to the USDA or adhering to the terms of the Farm Bill. However, a few states held out for a long time, thus preventing farmers from getting involved in the industry.
This article looks into industrial hemp and focuses on the hemp programs of three states.
Are Industrial Hemp Farms Legit?
The 1937 Marihuana Tax Act ban included hemp and hemp products. However, farmers grew it in locations like Kentucky during the 1950s! It was also widely grown during World War II due to its many uses.
The industrial hemp farming act removed the plant from the list of controlled substances. The Bill didn’t legalize CBD, nor did it guarantee the legal operation of an industrial hemp farm in every state. It made it clear that states had to develop a plan and submit it to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Therefore, states were allowed to prohibit the growth of the plant.
Some estimates suggest one can earn $100,000 per acre of hemp. Of course, you must subtract a myriad of expenses.
There were some holdout states until recently, but things have changed in the hemp industry. Many states have submitted their plans for approval. Others have yet to do so and are happy to fall back on the Farm Bill regulations.
If you intend to grow hemp, there are plenty of considerations. Too many farmers are seduced by the potential riches that await them. Some estimates suggest one can earn $100,000 per acre. Of course, you must subtract a myriad of expenses.
Nonetheless, this is less of an issue if you grow over 100 acres of high-quality hemp! In most states, up to 90% of all hemp is developed for the CBD industry. Top-rated brands such as PureKana tend to source their hemp from Kentucky farms.
While hemp is now synonymous with the CBD market, it has a remarkable array of uses.
What Are Industrial Hemp’s Uses?
The number #1 use of the crop is for the billion-dollar CBD market, and it is understandable but limits the potential of this fantastic plant. You could develop a long list of useful industrial hemp products if you think long and hard. Remember, this is a crop that once dominated the American landscape.
Estimates vary, but it is believed that you can make approximately 25,000+ products from the plant! While we won’t list thousands of uses for industrial hemp, we have included five of the most common apart from its use in the CBD industry.
1 – Textiles
The fibrous stalks of hemp are ideal for making cloth and textiles. Some people believe that hemp is a better alternative to cotton because it is more durable and better at retaining color. Furthermore, it gets softer with wear, rather than more uncomfortable like cotton.
2 – Bioplastics
You can mulch some parts of hemp and use it to construct bioplastics. These are the plastics of the future, biodegradable alternatives that give us the convenience of plastic without damage to our planet. One of the first-ever Ford cars contained hemp materials in the dashboard.
3 – Bio-Concrete
Similarly, some inventors have figured out how to make concrete alternatives, called hempcrete, using hemp.
4 – Biofuel
Yet another thing we can replace with hemp is fuel. It is commonly used in biofuels as a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels and gas.
5 – Nutrition
The seeds of hemp are incredibly nutritious. They are a source of complete protein, containing all nine amino acids. They’re also packed with omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids.
Cold pressing hemp seeds result in a delicious oil with a nutty flavor, perfect for drizzling. You also get plenty of nutrition by eating the seeds raw.
What States Allow Industrial Hemp Cultivation?
It took some time, but finally, all 50 states now allow licensed farmers to grow industrial hemp, and Idaho was the last holdout state. Finally, in April 2021, the state’s governor, Brad Little, signed House Bill 126, legalizing hemp cultivation.
While some states have sent a specific hemp growing plan to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), others, like Mississippi, forcing farmers to apply directly to the USDA.
On January 19, 2021, the USDA published a final rule. It provided the regulations for hemp production in the United States and was effective from March 22, 2021. Here are some crucial provisions included in the final rule:
- Negligent Violation: The USDA has raised the ‘negligence threshold’ from 0.5% THC to 1%. Therefore, if a farmer’s crop tests at above 0.3% THC but below 1%, they are not deemed to have committed a negligent violation. Each grower is only allowed one negligent violation per growing season.
- Testing: Non-DEA labs can continue testing hemp until January 1, 2023.
- Disposal of Non-Compliant Plants: Farmers don’t necessarily have to use a DEA reverse distributor or law enforcement to dispose of plants that don’t meet USDA rules. The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will provide acceptable disposal methods in due course.
- Sampling: Farmers can now collect samples up to 30 days before harvest. They can take samples from the entire plant or a greater part of it.
- Indian Tribal Territory: Indian tribes can exercise regulatory authority over hemp grown in their territory.
Growing Industrial Hemp – What You Should Know
It is a plant that grows quickly. Hemp doesn’t require chemical treatments due to its high resistance to most weeds and pests. Some plants grow up to 16 feet tall, and the seeds germinate rapidly. Typically, the fiber hemp is ready for harvest 70-90 days after seeding. In general, the plant likes well-drained pastures and lots of organic matter.
It also naturally helps clean up soils. However, if grown in contaminated soil, this becomes an issue as the plant soaks up the pollutants. We have a guide on tips for growing industrial hemp if you are interested in learning more. No matter what, your crop must contain a maximum of 0.3% THC.
Now, let’s briefly look at the industrial hemp programs of three selected states.
Growing Industrial Hemp in Alabama
The state legislature approved the Alabama Industrial Hemp Research Program Act in 2016. However, the program didn’t launch until 2019 after the Farm Bill classified hemp as an agricultural commodity. With a couple of years’ worth of experience under their collective belts, hemp farmers in Alabama are learning exactly what it takes to grow a high-quality crop.
The program showed initial promise. In 2019, there were 182 licensees, a figure that rose to over 420 in 2020. In 2019, around 10,000 acres were approved, though only half were farmed. The following year, about 300 farmers completed a harvest. However, participation soon fell below 200 once again. It seems as if the desire to cultivate hemp is waning amongst farmers in Alabama.
Growing Industrial Hemp in North Carolina
The North Carolina industrial hemp industry suffered a blow in 2020 when the state banned smokable hemp. However, you can still grow industrial hemp in North Carolina for the CBD market. There are now over 1,500 licensed farmers.
The news on the ban of smokable hemp hasn’t dulled investors’ appetite. Several industrial hemp processors have invested millions in the industry, a process likely to create hundreds of new jobs. In October 2020, North Carolina voted to extend its industrial hemp pilot program.
It officially ended on January 1, 2022. Now, all hemp production in the state must comply with the USDA Domestic Hemp Production Rule. All farmers growing hemp in North Carolina must hold a USDA-issued license.
Growing Industrial Hemp in North Dakota
It finally became possible to grow industrial hemp in North Dakota in 2019. More pertinently, farmers could cultivate CBD hemp after years of growing the cheaper grain plant. One local newspaper outlined how farmers paid $1 per seed and were extremely careful when planting each one! Every worker gets down on their hands and knees, digs a hole, and puts the plant in the ground by hand.
Of course, there are farmers with more sophisticated equipment. However, it is still necessary for many to go ‘old-school.’ When you’re talking about a crop worth up to 40 times the value of corn, it is worth the effort! However, although the number of farmers licensed to grow hemp has increased slightly, the acreage used for the crop is falling.
Either farmers are dedicating smaller amounts of land to hemp, or a reasonable proportion of licensees are not cultivating the crop.
Where Can I Buy Industrial Hemp Seeds?
Please note that you need a license from the relevant state department to grow industrial hemp seeds commercially. If you live in a state where cannabis cultivation is legal, any hemp plants you grow count towards your total marijuana plant limit.
Before you proceed, please ensure you only buy products from a reputable seed company. The best seed banks include Certificates of Analysis (COAs) with each batch to ensure a maximum of 0.3% THC in the seeds.
Also, you should know that it is legal to import hemp seeds from abroad. However, these seeds must come with a certificate from the exporting country that verifies the origin of the seeds. The documentation must also confirm no plant pests in the seeds. Several highly-rated hemp seed banks sell their products online, including:
- Fortuna Hemp
- Grow Barato
- High-Grade Hemp Seed
- Cheyenne Mountain Seed Company
- Ventura Seed Company
Bottom Line on Industrial Hemp
Every American state now welcomes hemp farming. The suggestion that you can generate revenue of up to $100,000 per acre seems outlandish. However, an executive summary published in Connecticut suggested that total revenues were over $24,000 per acre, with about $5,000 of that figure constituting profit. Of course, this estimate was based on certain productivity levels, not to mention a specific level of CBD in the crop.
Whether the growth of the CBD market helps or hinders profit margins remains to be seen.
In the meantime, those aiming to grow industrial hemp should follow their state’s rules. It is essential to keep the THC content below 0.3%. Sadly, we have heard of many farmers losing entire harvests by going over the threshold marginally. It is heartbreaking and financially catastrophic to lose months of hard work.
It is a more labor-intensive pursuit than growing traditional crops. Also, poor first-year yields, on average, make it hard to become profitable. You also need to invest in security because thieves steal hemp believing it is marijuana! If you think you can overcome these obstacles, the time is potentially ripe for growing industrial hemp.