State Releases Plan for Industrial Hemp Production

The 2018 federal Farm Bill opened the door to industrial hemp production, and the state of Michigan has developed a plan that enables farmers, processors, colleges and universities to take part in a pilot program to discover if investing in the crop will be doable and profitable.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Gary McDowell, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, recently unveiled the state’s Industrial Hemp Ag Pilot Program to allow for the growth, cultivation and marketing of Michigan-grown industrial hemp.

“Michigan is uniquely positioned to grow, process and manufacture industrial hemp. We are one of the nation’s most agriculturally diverse states – growing 300 different commodities on a commercial basis – making it a natural fit,” said Whitmer. “This emerging crop not only cultivates new opportunity for our farming community, but it also creates an avenue for new businesses to crop up across the state.”

Industrial hemp is marketed as a fiber, as a seed or as a dual-purpose crop, according to the Agriculture Marketing Resource Center. Although detailed market information for hemp is not readily available, estimates from the Vote Hemp show that the total retail value of hemp products in the U.S. in 2017 was $820 million.

Because industrial hemp is a variety of cannabis and comes from the same species as marijuana, hemp production has been tightly regulated in the U.S. The U.S. market is largely dependent on imports, both as finished hemp-containing products and as ingredients for use in further processing (mostly from Canada and China), according to the Congressional Research Service.

The 2018 Farm Bill lifts some of those restrictions because hemp contains less than 1% of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the psychoactive qualities that get people who use marijuana high.

“Michigan’s pilot program allows our farmers to explore the production and processing for hemp to determine whether or not this is a financially viable crop for them,” said McDowell. “It also helps pave the way for Michigan growers as we move toward a permanent licensing program next year to identify and expand value-added hemp processing and new market prospects.”

The state’s pilot program is required to demonstrate that Michigan has adequate policies and procedures in place to ensure a record is kept of where hemp is produced in the state, procedures to ensure hemp produced in the state meets the legal definition of not more than 0.3% THC, measures for disposal of materials exceeding the THC limits, and; ways for handling violations of the 2018 Farm Bill and the state’s plan.

Hemp is valued as a commodity because of the following facts, according to hemp basics:

  • One acre of hemp will produce as much fiber as two to three acres of cotton, is stronger and softer than cotton and lasts twice as long as cotton.
  • Hemp is frost tolerant, requires less water than cotton crops and can be grown in all 50 states.
  • One acre of hemp will produce as much paper as two to four acres of trees.
  • Hemp paper lasts hundreds of years without degrading, can be recycled more times than tree-based paper and requires fewer toxic chemicals to produce than tree-based paper.
  • Hemp can be used to produce environmentally friendly plastic substitutes.
  • Seeds of the hemp plant contain a protein that is more nutritious and economical to produce than soybean protein and can be used to produce any product made from soybeans.
  • Hemp seed oil is used to produce non-toxic diesel fuel, paint, varnish, detergent, ink, lubricating oil and clean-burning ethanol fuel.

To learn more about Michigan’s industrial hemp pilot program and regulations, go to www.michigan.gov/mdard/0,4610,7-125-1569_74018—,00.html

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