COLUMBIA CITY, Ind. — Much interest has been shown recently in growing hemp commercially. Through 2019, the Office of the Indiana State Chemist (OISC) only licensed hemp researchers under IC 15-15-13. With passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, the groundwork was laid for producers to begin producing hemp commercially.
However, even with that legislation, we are currently waiting upon guidance from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) before OISC can proceed with licensing for producers. This guidance is expected soon (Fall 2019), which must be followed by a 90-day comment period.
A license to grow hemp is required, and hemp must test below 0.3% THC. In the absence of a license, any cannabis production, regardless of THC level, is considered marijuana, a drug that is still illegal to grow in Indiana.
Don Robison, State Seed Administrator, recently said that Indiana’s plan cannot be put forward until this comment period is complete. He said that once Indiana’s plan is submitted to the USDA for approval, they have 60 days to approve. “Adding up these numbers, it can be as much as 150 days from the USDA original regulation posting before the Indiana plan is approved and hemp is fully commercial here,” he said. “That is said so you will understand the reasons why we may not be accepting applications for commercial hemp growing in January  as first thought.”
OISC is aware of seed suppliers who have sold seed under different variety names than they should. “Please understand, OISC is available to answer questions about what you can and cannot do as a seed supplier,” Robison said. “States will be cracking down on unlabeled or mislabeled hemp starting in 2020.” The USDA Seed and Regulatory Testing Division will be enforcing the Federal Seed Act on these mislabeled or unlabeled lots of seed.
“Hemp cannot currently be used as a livestock feed,” he said. “There is a group of people in the feed industry and at universities that are going through the early steps to eventually change that, but understand hemp seed/grain and plant parts cannot be fed to livestock that will be sold or go to market.”
Except for a brief spike in production during World War II, hemp production in the last 70 years had essentially stopped completely. In 2014, Governor Mike Pence signed the “Industrial Hemp” Bill, IC 15-15-13, into law. This Act authorized OISC and the Seed Commissioner to obtain the necessary permits and authorizations for, and production and regulation of, industrial hemp in Indiana. The 2018 Farm Bill then authorized states to implement an industrial hemp program under USDA’s guidance. It also removed hemp from the definition of marijuana.
Commercial hemp falls into three main categories: fiber hemp, grain hemp, and CBD hemp. “CBD” stands for cannabidiol, a chemical compound derived from the cannabis plant. All Cannabis plants produce THC; however, marijuana contains high levels of THC (over 10%), and hemp contains very little (0.3%). Industrial hemp is grown for the production of fiber, feed, and oil, and contains almost no THC. THC causes the famous marijuana ‘high’.
To stay up-to-date, OISC has an updated hemp website available at https://www.oisc.purdue.edu/hemp/index.html. Additionally, find information about industrial hemp at the Purdue Hemp Project website, https://purduehemp.org/hemp-as-a-crop/.
— John E. Woodmansee, Extension Educator, Agriculture/Natural Resources
Purdue University Extension, Whitley County
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