For the first time in more than 60 years, industrial hemp can be produced in Tennessee.
The 2014 United States Farm Bill and a new law enacted by the Tennessee General Assembly in 2014 both provide for the lawful production of industrial hemp, which differs from the genetically similar marijuana that remains unlawful to grow.
“Industrial hemp is regarded primarily as an agricultural crop produced for its fiber and grain,” said Eric Walker, the University of Tennessee Extension specialist managing questions on hemp production. “Hemp fiber is used to make a host of products, including textiles, building materials, animal bedding, mulch, paper, industrial products and biofuels. Hemp grain, or seed, is used in food and feed products, and oil from the seed is used to make body care products and industrial products, including paints, solvents and lubricants.”
Producers considering adding industrial hemp as a crop must first register with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA), and upon approval, must produce industrial hemp under the oversight of TDA. The deadline for applying for an Industrial Hemp License for 2015 has passed, but interested producers should monitor how this first year for the crop progresses. Applicants who are approved to produce industrial hemp in Tennessee in 2015 and who receive Industrial Hemp Licenses will be considered participants in an agricultural pilot program and must generate research data to be shared with program participants and other interested parties. Participants also must permit any institution of higher education in Tennessee to access their registered production sites.
Licensed pilot producers of industrial hemp are subject to sampling of their industrial hemp crop to verify that the THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) concentration does not exceed 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis. THC is the chemical produced by hemp and related plants that can cause psychoactive effects. Industrial hemp growers must pay the costs of THC laboratory analysis, which are projected to be approximately $200 per sample. In addition, each licensed pilot producer will pay a charge of $35 per hour per inspector for actual drive time, mileage, inspection and sampling time.
Industrial hemp seed must be certified seed ordered through Tennessee Department of Agriculture.
Walker says that industrial hemp, like other Tennessee crops, grows best when sound management practices are followed. These practices include planting at the proper seeding depth and density in a prepared seedbed consisting of fertile, well-drained productive soils with abundant organic matter, and amending these soils with lime and fertilizer to optimize industrial hemp yield and quality.
More information about the application process, regulations and licensing can be found on the TDA website. Visit www.tn.gov/agriculture, scroll down to “Programs” and select “Industrial Hemp,” or go directly to www.tn.gov/agriculture/regulatory/industrialhemp.shtml.
“It is imperative that the pilot producer and those interested in production in future seasons regularly refer to the TDA website, and maintain open and frequent communication with TDA to ensure compliance,” said Walker. He encourages producers considering an industrial hemp license to take advantage of resources provided by TDA and UT Extension.
Walker also reminds producers and potential producers that because this is a new crop, marketing will pose problems. “I want to stress that there is at present no market for Tennessee-produced industrial hemp. As matters stand now, most producers will not recoup any of their investment in 2015.” Of course, many expect that situation to change.
A UT Extension publication, “Status of Industrial Hemp Production in Tennessee in 2015” (Publication W 328) is available online at extension.tennessee.edu/publications. Enter the publication number or title into the search engine. The publication provides introductory information and a current update on the status of Industrial hemp production in Tennessee.
W. Alan Bruhin