- The USDA has approved the hemp production plans for Minnesota, Tennessee, and Puerto Rico this week.
- Both Minnesota and Tennessee have elected to follow the 2014 pilot rules during 2020 despite their recently-approved plans.
- The USDA has now approved 53 plans under interim final rules.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) gave two states and a U.S. territory the thumbs-up for their hemp production plans this week. This brings the USDA’s total to 53 approved plans under its interim final rules.
Minnesota, whose plan received approval on Tuesday, has been a pro-hemp state for six years ever since the 2014 Farm Bill pilot program was created. The state had declared earlier this year that they plan to grow under the 2014 pilot rules for the 2020 season; a decision that remains the same even with USDA approval of their new plan.
Thom Peterson, Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner, wrote to the USDA back in January of this year stating that the expiration date of October 31st for the pilot program was impractical, and that the shift for states to switch to their approved USDA plans would cause confusion for both hemp farmers and staff of state agriculture departments.
“The two-month gap to fill in licensing will lead to confusion for growers, as well as be out of conformance with state law,” Peterson wrote in his letter to the USDA.
It was also noted that the pilot program’s expiration date in October lands during harvesting. At this time, Peterson worries that the state agriculture department staff will have their hands full with sampling hemp fields and will be too busy to review applications and hand out licenses before the first of November.
Peterson also thanked the USDA for their work on the federal hemp program and the approval of Minnesota’s production plan. However, he acknowledges that there is more work to be done.
“While this is a major step forward, there are still concerns over some of the regulations imposed on states and tribal governments, such as testing requirements,” Peterson stated.
Similar to Minnesota, Tennessee also received approval for their hemp production plan on Tuesday and will continue forward under the 2014 Farm Bill pilot program. So far, more than 20 states plan on using the 2014 rules for the 2020 growing season.
Tennessee’s hemp industry grew by leaps and bounds in 2019 as they expanded by over 12x. By November, they had licensed 3,800 producers along with a total of 51,000 acres being used to grow hemp.
Back in February, Kim Doddridge, spokeswoman for the agriculture department in Tennessee, discussed the hemp industry in Tennessee with a focus on their potential changes from the 2018 Farm Bill.
“We are evaluating the 2018 bill and potential changes to our program with continued focus on working with producers and industry to advance hemp in Tennessee,” Doddridge stated.
The exact number of acreage and licensed growers for Tennessee in 2020 has not yet been reported.
Puerto Rico also received USDA approval for their hemp production plan, making them the second U.S. territory to receive it (the U.S. Virgin Islands received approval in May).
Following the approval of the 2018 Farm Bill, Puerto Rico established a hemp pilot program the next year. The new program authorized industrial hemp cultivation within the territory.
Puerto Rico’s approved plan includes a note that, thanks to the island’s location and tropical climate, allows hemp to be harvested a maximum of three times per year. If used correctly, this will provide the local hemp industry in Puerto Rico with a major advantage over other regions.