Hemp programs approved for U.S. states of Georgia, Iowa

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Two traditional agriculture states in the USA have had their hemp programs approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The southeastern state of Georgia, and Iowa, which sits in the middle of the country’s vast farm-belt, both have been given the go-ahead on plans they submitted to the federal farming agency.

State officials said 57 farming and 5 processing applications were filed with the Georgia Department of Agriculture during the first four days after licensing opened.

Stakeholders say the state can compete on a global scale in industrial hemp, given its moderate climate and long growing season. Tests by the University of Georgia also have shown the plant grows well in Georgia’s soil, which has a high percentage of red clay in it.

From cotton to hemp?

Georgia is a traditional cotton state, with tobacco also being a major crop. The state leads the USA in the production of peanuts and pecans, and is also a major producer of peaches, apples and watermelons. The state’s 42,000 farms cover about 9.5 million acres (3.8 milllion hectares) of land.

The state agriculture department is accepting applications online for hemp farming licenses. Once an application is received, the department runs background checks and collects licensing fees. The approval process takes about 20 days, state officials said. Farmers will pay $50 per acre annually to grow hemp in Georgia, under the licensing rules. Processors must pay an initial $25,000 fee, then $10,000 annually.

State THC inspection

State inspectors will test for THC levels under the Georgia hemp program; if inspection shows any sample exceeding the 0.3% THC limit, the entire crop must be destroyed.

CBD from hemp is already in distribution in Georgia, with some companies hopeful it will get into pharmacy and grocery chains by the end of 2020.

Georgia did not participate in the pilot hemp program that started in 2014. That puts it well behind other big hemp producing states in the U.S. south, including Kentucky, North Carolina and Tennessee.

Iowa limits fields

In Iowa, farmers in the state can begin applying to grow hemp today. Under that state’s rules, farmers may grow only a maximum of 40 acres of hemp; all individuals involved in hemp production must be listed on the company’s license, subject themselves to background checks and submit fingerprints. Iowa’s plan does not legalize the production or use of CBD, according to the state Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship.

Iowa is the leading corn producing state in the USA, and ranks among the leaders in production of soybeans. The state has about 30 million acres (12 million hectares) of arable land.

USDA so far has approved 12 state hemp programs since the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill last December. Seventeen states are continuing to operate under 2014 hemp pilot program rules, while eight additional state programs are still pending review by the USDA. Other states are currently drafting hemp plans. USDA also has approved 14 hemp production plans on Native American tribal lands, and list another 16 tribal programs as under review.

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