The USA has jumped into the top ranks of global hemp growing nations, recording a tripling of land under hemp to reach a total 78,176 acres (about 31,000 hectares) in 2018, according to the American hemp advocacy group Vote Hemp. Vote Hemp had recorded about 25,000 acres of hemp fields across the USA in 2017. Twenty-three states grew hemp in 2018, Vote Hemp said.
Globally, that puts the USA third, behind world leader China (400,000 acres/162,000 ha.) and northern neighbor Canada (100,000 acres/40,000 ha), and is nearly double the land sown for hemp in France (42,000 acres/17,000 ha.), Europe’s leading hemp grower. Only about 110,000 acres (44,000 ha.) of hemp were grown across all of Europe in 2017, the year for which the most recent figures are available.
Montana expands fast
The rapid expansion of hemp fields in the USA last year was driven primarily by anticipated passage of the U.S. Farm Bill, which removed hemp from the U.S. narcotics list. The Bill became law in late December. Strong demand for CBD was a major contributing factor in the growth of U.S. fields.
Internally in the U.S., Montana recorded the most fields under hemp last year with 22,000 acres (about 9,000 ha.), a drastic increase over the 542 acres (219 ha.) sown in 2017. Montana eclipsed perennial hemp leader Colorado, which was the second biggest grower in the USA last year with 21,578 acres (8,700 ha.), Vote Hemp reported.
Research also expands
State licenses to cultivate hemp were issued to 3,544 farmers and researchers; and 40 universities conducted research on the crop, more than double the number of licenses issued in 2017.
The new 2018 Farm Bill, signed into law last December includes a section on “Hemp Production” that removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, placing full federal regulatory authority of hemp with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and allows individual state agriculture departments to submit hemp program plans for approval. The states regulate hemp production.
‘Whole plant’ definition
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; and 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.
41 states are active
Forty-one U.S. states have defined industrial hemp as distinct and removed barriers to its production:
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- West Virginia