Situation: The 2018 Farm Bill passed by Congress in December defined industrial hemp as an agricultural commodity and removed it from the controlled substance list. Producers across the country may now legally farm industrial hemp as part of an approved industrial hemp regulatory program. Since the Farm Bill passed, the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI), Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES), and the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station (AAES) have been inundated with questions from across the state.
1) When can I start planting industrial hemp?
The Farm Bill approved IH production across the states, and removed industrial hemp from the controlled substance list. Until USDA develops regulations relative to the 2018 Farm Bill, ADAI will be administering the State Industrial Hemp Program under the 2014 Farm Bill and the 2016 Alabama Industrial Hemp Research Program Act, Section 2-8-380 Code of Alabama 1975. ADAI will be accepting applications for growing and processing IH until February 22, 2019.
2) How long will it be before the rules and regulations are in place that will allow us to plant under the 2018 Farm Bill?
The timeline is not well defined, especially with the federal government shutdown. Once the USDA is back to normal business, the rules and regulations have to be written and published. The overall process could take as long a year before all of the appropriate rules and regulations are in place and a permitting process is approved.
Federal time line: Rules and regulations will first be developed followed by a 30 to 60-day comment period, revision; after which, there will be a 45-day adoption period.
State time line begins after the USDA rules are developed: Rules, regulations, and permit development by a 35-day comment period, revision, Agriculture Board vote, and 45-day adoption period.
3) If the process moves faster than anticipated, how likely would it be to plant an industrial hemp field under the 2018 Farm bill in 2019?
This will likely not happen for 2019. Since Alabama’s planting season is in the spring, the comment and adoption periods alone will push the timeline into the summer. When the time to develop the rules, regulations, and permits is added, it is most likely that the timeline will extend through the fall.
4) I have read that other states have received approval from the USDA for their producers to plant industrial hemp as an unregulated crop in 2019. Why doesn’t Alabama have the same approval?
To date, no other states have received USDA approval to plant industrial hemp as an unregulated crop in 2019. While some states may have submitted their industrial hemp programs to USDA, all state industrial hemp programs are operating under the 2014 Farm Bill for pilot research programs. Even under the 2018 Farm Bill, the growing of industrial hemp in the Unites States will be regulated under either USDA or State authority.
5) How are producers in other states planting industrial hemp, and why can’t I plant it in Alabama right now?
Producers in other states are operating under the 2014 Farm Bill provision for pilot research programs and not for general production. Alabama producers and research universities are under the same provisions where participants can apply for permits to conduct industrial hemp research; however, the Department is limiting the number of participants under the research program.
Permits to conduct research in Alabama are posted on-line and must be submitted no later than February 22, 2019 to be considered.
News release: http://agi.alabama.gov/u/news/2019/01/22/applications-now-available-for-pilot-industrial-hemp-production
North Carolina: https://industrialhemp.ces.ncsu.edu/; https://industrialhemp.ces.ncsu.edu/hempfaq/
6) When can I farm industrial hemp just as I would cotton, corn, peanuts, or soybeans?
A license and annual registration will be required under either the 2014 or 2018 Farm Bill. Planting areas will be identified on your application to facilitate required monitoring and sampling of the crop. Even though the 2018 Farm Bill redefined hemp as an agricultural commodity, production fields will have to be sampled before harvest to ensure that the THC level is below 0.3%.
7) What is the cost of participating in the Alabama industrial hemp pilot research program in 2019?
There is an initial, non-refundable application fee of $200 that must accompany the completed application. It approved, there is a $1000 license fee per growing area. Those who wish to participate in the Alabama Industrial Hemp Program must reapply every year during the during the designated sign-up period.
8) If I have more than one growing or processing area, do I need to submit an application for each?
No. You may submit a single application for every growing or processing area, but be sure to list the GPS coordinates and other requested information for each site. You will, however, be required to submit a participation fee of $1000 per growing or processing area.
9) I am submitting an application as a member of a partnership. Must I submit all the requested information on each partner?
No. We require only one authorized contact person to complete the application. If we need additional information on partners at a later date, the Alabama Industrial Hemp Program staff will request it at that time.
10) How do I purchase industrial hemp seed for planting?
It is currently not legal to purchase or bring viable industrial hemp seed or live propagules (plant parts) into the state. When the final rules and regulations are cleared through the USDA, ADAI, state Attorney General’s office, and law enforcement, a process for obtaining permits to grow and process will be established. It will be important to obtain seed from sources that are already permitted in their state to sell IH seed. Legitimate sources of industrial hemp seed will require a copy of your industrial hemp growers license before allowing you to purchase seed. All seed and clones being brought into the state must be shipped or brought DIRECTLY to the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries for inventory and germination test prior to distribution.
11) What happens to my industrial hemp crop if the analysis reveals that it has >0.3% THC?
The field will be destroyed.
12) Does industrial hemp have crop insurance, price support, and other programs similar to the traditional agronomic crops grown in Alabama?
Not at this time. The earliest that these programs will be available is after USDA develops the final rules and regulations required by the 2018 Farm Bill.
13) Is there economic feasibility information available from AU, ACES, or the AAES on producing IH?
No. Because of the historical moratorium on hemp research, there are no current feasibility studies for IH production in Alabama. Many states have published pilot research and production information which can be found on the internet. Some examples include:
U.S. Congressional Report Over view: