With the 2020 growing season on the horizon, Gary McDowell, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) director, unveiled the state’s 2019 Industrial Hemp Ag Pilot Program final report, marking the successful completion of the freshman year of this new program.
“With the inaugural year of growing hemp for the first time in decades under our belt, Michigan is focused on taking the next steps with this emerging crop,” McDowell says. “Last year, hemp was grown in 58 of the state’s counties, and I look forward to the next phase of this program.”
In April 2019, MDARD established Michigan’s first Industrial Hemp Ag Pilot Program, so farmers, processors and state colleges could grow, handle, process and research industrial hemp. Industrial hemp is cannabis (Cannabis sativa L.) that has equal to or less than 0.3% 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It’s grown for fiber, grain and biomass, as well as nonintoxicating medical compounds such as cannabidiol (CBD).
Participants in the 2019 pilot program were required to enter into a research agreement with MDARD. Under the agreement, each registered grower or licensed processor-handler was required to submit a research report to MDARD after the end of the 2019 growing season. The results of the survey submissions are summarized in the report.
“Feedback from the surveys provided the department with invaluable feedback as we move into the second year of growing and processing hemp in Michigan,” says Gina Alessandri, MDARD’s Industrial Hemp program director. “Their feedback gives us a better understanding of the challenges they faced, so we can build a solid foundation for a long-term successful hemp crop.”
The 2019 pilot program participants planted approximately 3,678 acres of hemp outdoors, and an additional 400,977 square feet of hemp indoors across the state. Based on the survey responses received, more than 1,000 acres of hemp were planted by growers in multiple counties. The counties with the highest reported hemp acreage planted were Huron, Berrien, Oceana and Tuscola.
Pilot program continuing in 2020
MDARD is continuing the industrial hemp ag pilot program into 2020 while working to develop a permanent program.
State Sen. Dan Lauwers, representing the state’s 21st Senate District, is sponsoring Senate bills 850, 851, 852 and 853. This legislation is intended to align Michigan’s industrial hemp laws with the requirements set in place by the USDA’s interim final rule. The passage of this legislation will enable Michigan to submit a state plan for USDA approval for hemp cultivation. “This legislation keeps Michigan farmers compliant with federal requirements to grow industrial hemp,” Lauwers adds. “It’s important we keep farmers eligible to grow this new crop for the diversity it offers their operations and the competitiveness of Michigan agriculture.”
For additional information about Michigan’s industrial hemp program, visit michigan.gov/industrialhemp.