The Minnesota Department of Agriculture received word July 14 that USDA approved the state’s hemp production plan.
The plan governs the production and regulation of hemp in the state. It needed federal approval as part of USDA’s U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program. While the plan is now approved, Minnesota will continue to operate under the state’s pilot program.
Minnesota agriculture commissioner Thom Petersen thanked USDA for its approval, noting it is a step forward for state’s hemp industry. Agreeing to move forward with the process offers certainty for hemp growers and ensures they have access to USDA programs, such as crop insurance and grants.
However, some concerns remain with the federal rule as written, such as regulations imposed on states and tribal government and testing requirements.
MDA senior communications officer Allen Sommerfeld says USDA indicated it will re-open the interim rule for additional public comments and MDA will again offer comments on the testing timeline, sampling variability and the requirement for DEA-approved laboratories.
“The MDA is also working to pursue a change in the extension of the pilot program date from Oct. 31, 2020, to Dec. 31, 2020, so that we can remain under the pilot and existing regulations for this calendar year, rather than changing over to the USDA-approved plan in the middle of fall,” Sommerfeld says.
Once the harvest season is over, MDA will be communicating any changes and new requirements to hemp growers and processors through its licensee list, grower meetings and conferences, Sommerfeld adds.
Joe Radinovich, executive director of the Minnesota Hemp Association, says the plan approval by USDA is an important step in moving the state’s hemp industry forward. He acknowledged MDA as a strong ally for state hemp growers and processors.
Even with the challenges with testing requirements, total THC calculations and harvest timelines, Radinovich notes Minnesota has more hemp acreage and nearly ten times as much indoor space licensed for production this year compared to previous years.
“Looking forward, we must continue to expand markets, particularly for fiber and grain, and build the capacity necessary here in Minnesota to make these products available to consumers,” he adds.
The 2014 Farm Bill allowed for pilot programs to study the growth, cultivation and marketing of hemp. It was the first time in decades that hemp was legally allowed to be grown in the United States. Minnesotans first planted hemp under MDA’s pilot program in 2016. There were six growers that year.
The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, made it distinct from marijuana and recognized it as an agricultural crop. In 2019, 550 people held licenses to grow or process hemp in the state. More than 7,300 acres and 400,000 indoor square feet were planted.
Currently, 511 people have grower or processor licenses, and there are 8,605 hemp acres and 4.66 million indoor square feet of growing space registered with MDA.
Industrial hemp and marijuana are both types of the same plant, Cannabis sativa. They differ by the concentration level of THC within the plant. Hemp has less than 0.3% THC, and levels above that are considered marijuana.
MDA and the University of Minnesota are currently conducting a hemp survey for growers. All responses will remain anonymous and help direct future research and investment to support Minnesota hemp producers.
For more information on hemp in Minnesota, visit the Minnesota Hemp Association’s website.