An estimated 115,000-138,000 acres (46,000-56,000 ha) of hemp will be harvested in the USA this year, after farmers were licensed to grow 511,442 acres (207,000 ha) of the crop, according to a report from industry group Vote Hemp.
While that total area of licensed fields is four times the analog data for 2018, some farmers who are granted licenses choose not to plant, the group noted.
Vote Hemp’s figures are based on an annual survey of state agriculture departments.
Citing trends in previous years, Vote Hemp estimated that 230,000 acres (93,000 ha) of hemp were planted, and predicted that only 50-60% of that will be harvested due to crop failure, non-compliant crops and other factors.
The massive increase in 2019 hemp fields comes following passage of the 2018 Farm Bill last December which essentially legalized hemp across the USA.
Other growth indicators
Also indicating the massive growth of the hemp industry in the United States, Vote Hemp reported:
- State licenses to cultivate hemp were issued to 16,877 farmers and researchers, a 476% increase over 2018.
- Thirteen U.S. states set up new hemp programs this year.
- The total number of hemp states now stands at 46 as only Idaho, Mississippi, New Hampshire and South Dakota have yet to establish legal frameworks to establish hemp industry value chains.
By defining industrial hemp as distinct and removing barriers to its production, states are able to take advantage of federal hemp research and pilot programs outlined in the Farm Bill.
‘Time to build infrastructure’
Under the provisions of the previous Farm Bill (2014), farmers had been able to grow crops for limited hemp research programs only.
“Now that we have lifted federal prohibition on hemp farming, it’s time to build the infrastructure and expand hemp cultivation and the market for hemp products across the country,” said Eric Steenstra, President of Vote Hemp.
Noting “hemp processors are critical to the growth of the industry,” the report also documents dramatic investments and growth in hemp processing facilities.
States which license processors reported 2,880 processing licenses, an increase of 483% over 2018. But several key states including Colorado do not require licensing of processors so processing capacity is actually significantly higher, Vote Hemp noted.
Extraction processing grows
The growth of processing is largely for extraction, which “positions the hemp industry well to meet market demand for extracts,” Vote Hemp said, “but more investment is needed for fiber and grain processing.”
The new 2018 Farm Bill, signed into law Dec. 20, 2018, includes Section 10113 titled “Hemp Production,” which removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, placing full federal regulatory authority of hemp with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and allowing state departments of agriculture to submit hemp program plans for federal approval; such approval allows them to regulate hemp cultivation according to their individual state guidelines.
The USDA is expected to release new federal regulations for hemp cultivation this fall as required by Section 10114 of the Farm Bill; states with approved plans can begin regulating hemp cultivation on their own starting in 2020.
In addition to defining hemp as cannabis that contains no more than 0.3% THC by dry weight, the 2018 Farm Bill asserts a “whole plant” definition of hemp, including plant extracts. It also removes roadblocks to the rapidly growing hemp industry in the U.S., notably by authorizing and encouraging access to federal research funding for hemp, and removing restrictions on banking, water rights, and other regulatory roadblocks the hemp industry currently faces. The bill also explicitly authorizes crop insurance for hemp.
The 46 states that have set legal frameworks for hemp in the USA are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.