Current Status of Hemp

Farmers in states where hemp is legal may be able to grow hemp under Section 7606 of the 2014 Farm Bill. In order to be in compliance, the farmer must be certified by and registered with the state department of agriculture and conducting research or a pilot program approved by the state department of agriculture.

The farm bill is usually renewed every five years, and the last bill expired September 30, 2018. The 2014 Farm Bill’s expiration affected several programs because they have authorization or funding tied to the current farm bill. Some of those programs have since received gap funding by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Under Section 7606, first the cultivation of hemp must be conducted in a state that has legalized the production of hemp. Second, the researcher must either be an institution of higher education or state department of agriculture or grow the industrial hemp in compliance with a state agricultural pilot program. Thus, sales and marketing of hemp raw materials is allowed under the research and pilot programs authorized in Section 7606. The term “industrial hemp” includes the plant Cannabis sativa and any part or derivative of such plant, including seeds of such plant, whether growing or not, that is used exclusively for industrial purposes (fiber and seed) with a tetrahydrocannabinols (thc) concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.

Passing a new Farm Bill is one of the main issues Congress will have to deal with when it returns from the election recess. The joint House-Senate conference committee tasked with negotiating differences over the bill has continued to hold discussions despite the election recess. If the committee fails to resolve the issues, Congress can take up the legislation next year.

The Florida Legislature and Department of Agriculture has promulgated laws and rules allowing the cultivation and research of hemp in the state, allowing farmers to grow industrial hemp if they follow certain guidelines. Pursuant to section 1004.4473, F.S., and in accordance with 7 U.S.C. Section 5940, the Department shall authorize and oversee the development of Industrial Hemp Pilot Projects (Pilot Project) for the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Florida, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, and any other land grant university in the state that has a college of agriculture. Section 1004.4473(2)(a), F.S., provides that the purpose of the Pilot Project is to cultivate, process, test, research, create, and market safe and effective commercial agricultural applications for Industrial Hemp, which is a potentially invasive plant species and is a threat to the plant life of this state if not properly controlled.

It will be interesting to follow whether a Farm Bill soon after the election or not and what changes will be made from the current Farm Bill. We will continue to keep you updated.