The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved hemp programs submitted by Florida and Kansas, as the federal agency continues to evaluate plans for growing and processing the crop in states and on tribal lands.
“After months of incorporating feedback from the public, growers, and industry stakeholders, we are thrilled that Florida’s hemp industry officially begins now,” Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said in a press release,” noting the hemp industry “will create billions in economic opportunity for Florida,” and “give our agriculture industry a new alternative crop for many years to come.”
Stakeholders in Kansas were also elated: “This is great news for Kansas, as it moves us one step closer to establishing a commercial program for industrial hemp,” said Jeff Ochampaugh, chairman of the state’s Industrial Hemp Advisory Board.
Florida applications online
In Florida, the state’s Division of Plant Industry (DPI) said it will begin accepting hemp growing and processing license applications at the beginning of May via a paperless process through an online portal. Farming licenses will be issued for hemp cultivation grown for fiber, oils, seed and nursery plants. All Florida hemp crops are required to be analyzed for THC prior to harvest under state and federal requirements. In most cases, independent testing labs will be eligible to conduct required THC testing under contract.
Oversight of hemp seed certification, animal feed certification, and THC testing is under the state’s Division of Agricultural Environmental Services, while the Division of Food Safety will regulate retail sales of hemp products for human consumption and processing facilities.
State officials in Florida have said they expect Florida’s hemp sector to be a $20-30 billion industry in the next five to 10 years.
Kansas targets 2021
Kansas Department of Agriculture officials were quick to point out that USDA approval of the state’s plan does not bring significant change for farmers at this time, as the program should is not expected fully in place until the 2021 farming season. Until that time, hemp farmers can continue to operate under rules of the 2014 Farm Bill, which allowed states to grow and process hemp in pilot programs.
Officials said the formal adoption process for the Kansas program will involve the state’s Division of Budget, Department of Administration, the Attorney General and the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules and Regulations. Once the regulations are reviewed, they are subject to a public hearing.
16 States, 17 tribes approved
USDA earlier this month green-lighted hemp plans submitted by South Carolina and West Virginia. In all, the government has given its stamp of approval to 16 state hemp programs so far.
Native American sovereign nations whose hemp plans were approved this month include The Blackfeet Nation, the Cayuga Nation, the Sac & Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa, Oglala Sioux Tribe, the Seneca Nation of Indians, and the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. With those additions, a total of 17 tribal hemp plans are now approved.
Federal approval by the U.S. Department of Agriculture is part of the process for individual states and tribal groups to get their programs going after hemp and its derivatives were federally legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill.