LANSING — There’s a growing interest in industrial hemp, according to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD).
Since unveiling the Industrial Hemp Ag Pilot Program in April, the state agency said it’s received 609 applications to commercially grow industrial hemp. In total, 359 growers and 250 processors have applied for a license, with 600 industrial hemp licenses (353 grower licenses and 247 processor licenses) issued out on a temporary basis.
The Industrial Hemp Ag Pilot Program is authorized under the 2018 federal Farm Bill, where commercial production and processing of industrial hemp are permitted. Now, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is implementing a national program and intends to have it in place for the 2020 growing season.
So far, hemp legally grown in the U.S. must be conducted under research agreements approved in the 2014 Farm Bill, and should “study growth, cultivation, or marketing of industrial hemp.”
“MDARD is pleased with the interest in the Industrial Hemp Ag Pilot program and the success of the in-person licensing events to expedite the process,” MDARD Communications Director Jennifer Holton told Michigan Farm News.
According to Holton, MDARD will generate a report on acreage when all license applications are entered into its system. Experts say the recently introduced pilot program comes just in time for the 2019 growing season.
“I think these numbers show that there is a lot of interest in this new crop,” said Theresa Sissung, crop specialist for the Michigan Farm Bureau. “I think it’s great for the future of the industry as well because there should be a lot of information coming from the research pilot that will help growers in the future as industrial hemp moves to full-scale production.”
Sissung said she doesn’t have specifics on the number of Farm Bureau members interested in growing industrial hemp. Currently, the product can be produced as fiber, seed or CBD oil.
“At most of the meetings I have been at CBD is what most people are talking about, so I would assume that is the route most people will go,” Sissung said. “I did hear a couple of farmers who are looking at fiber production.”
There are two types of registration currently available — a grower ($100) and processor-handler license ($1,350).
For more information about growing industrial hemp, visit MDARD’s website.