In recent years, we have seen growing interest in industrial hemp production among Virginia’s farmers. The crop presents an economic opportunity to produce hemp for fiber, oil, or seed and there is a great deal of optimism and enthusiasm surrounding the fledgling industry.
The 2018 Farm Bill included provisions establishing a regulatory framework for the commercial production of hemp and allowed states wanting to have primary regulatory authority over the commercial production of hemp to prepare a plan under which the state will monitor and regulate hemp production. During the 2019 Virginia General Assembly Session two bills, HB 1839 and SB 1692, were passed and essentially conformed Virginia law to that language found in the Farm Bill. This change cleared the way for farmers to commercially produce hemp without having to participate in the existing hemp research program.
The hemp industry has many moving parts at both the state and federal level, and this article provides an overview of the current state of the industry; VDACS efforts to promote the industry; guidelines for importing plantable seed; and helpful tips for those with a 2019 crop.
General VA Hemp Overview:
As of this writing, VDACS has issued approximately 629 Industrial Hemp Grower Registrations representing 5,000 potential acres, and 92 Industrial Hemp Processor Registrations. VDACS released the dealer registration application form in late April and have already received three applications for this new registration. Southside Virginia has the largest share of the grower registrations in the Commonwealth.
On average, it is taking VDACS 45 days to turn around the Industrial Hemp Grower, Dealer, and Processor Registration applications once received.
USDA has recently advised that it plans to issue regulations regarding industrial hemp cultivation in the fall of this year and that it is not going to review state regulatory plans submitted pursuant to the 2018 federal Farm Bill until its regulations are in place. Once that guidance has been released, VDACS will work to submit a plan after they have had time to review the USDA’s regulations.
VDACS’ Efforts on Processors:
VDACS is making the AFID Grant and all other economic development programs available to hemp growers and processors of Virginia-produced product. The VDACS Domestic Marketing staff are working with processors and growers to build connections and to ensure connectivity between producer and end-user in the supply chain.
For producers of CBD oil for human consumption, the process is a little more complicated. VDACS has proposed that CBD be inspected and regulated the same way as food and beverage additives and/or as dietary supplements – whichever is most appropriate based on the processor’s end use. This proposed rulemaking is under review, and, if approved, VDACS will then have guidelines that will allow them to promote processors of CBD and human-consumption products.
Importation of Hemp Seed
Under the 2018 Farm Bill provisions, DEA no longer has authority to require hemp seed permits (<0.3% THC) for import purposes. U.S. producers and hemp seed exporters have requested assistance from USDA to provide an avenue for hemp seed exports to the United States, due to the lack of a large-scale domestic seed industry. The USDA regulates the importation of all seeds for planting to ensure safe agricultural trade. Under this authority, USDA is providing an alternative way for the safe importation of hemp seeds into the United States. USDA has provided two avenues for the importation of hemp seed.
- Importation of hemp seed from Canada:Hemp seeds can be imported into the United States from Canada if accompanied by either: 1) a phytosanitary certification from Canada’s national plant protection organization to verify the origin of the seed and confirm that no plant pests are detected; or 2) a Federal Seed Analysis Certificate (SAC, PPQ Form 925) for hemp seeds grown in Canada.
- Importation of hemp seed from countries other than Canada:Hemp seeds may be imported into the United States from countries other than Canada if accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate from the exporting country’s national plant protection organization to verify the origin of the seed and confirm that no plant pests are detected.
Hemp seed shipments may be inspected upon arrival at the first port of entry by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to ensure USDA regulations are met, including certification and freedom from plant pests.
Additional Information for Hemp Producers
- Due to the amendments to the Virginia Industrial Hemp Law removing the research requirement, growers will no longer be required to submit an annual research report.
- In the past VDACS allowed up to two individuals to be listed on a single registration (e.g. husband and wife) but VDACS will no longer issue registrations listing multiple individuals or responsible authorities. VDACS does, however, allow both a registrant and a registrant’s agent to possess industrial hemp for any lawful purpose. As such, two people working the same production field do not both need registrations.
- VDACS will no longer accept requests to amend the production fields, process sites, or dealerships stated on registrations over the phone or via email. You must use the official form found here.
- Registered growers must submit an Industrial Hemp Planting and Propagation Report within 14 calendar days of planting seeds, clones, or cuttings. If you plant multiple times throughout the growing season, you must submit multiple reports. If you do not plant a registered field for any reason, you still must submit a report indicating that you did not plant that field by July 31st.
Farm Bureau will continue to be engaged in the regulatory process as the federal landscape and Virginia Industrial Hemp Program continue to evolve and change. If you are a registered grower, or an interested party, you are encouraged to visit the VDACS industrial hemp webpage where you can find more resources and information.