Hemp Pilot Program- 6/14/18

Hemp is one of the oldest cultivated crops, and has an incredible range of uses including food, medicine, fiber, animal feed, and cover crop. It is grown in most countries, including Canada, and has an annual retail value of nearly $600 million – just in the U.S. .

Hemp provides an exciting opportunity for Vermonters, and could support the economic viability of Vermont farms, help create jobs, support the local economy, and promote environmental stewardship. Hemp is a versatile, low-input, quick-growing crop, and can be used for:

§  Erosion reduction, when used as a cover crop or stream-bank buffer

§  Crop rotation, because of its ability to out-compete weeds

§  High-value cash crop, when processed into edible seeds and oils, textiles, medicinal CBD oil, etc.

 

On the Path to Legalization:

Despite hemp’s many uses and myriad benefits, federal law has long prohibited the cultivation of hemp because it does not distinguish between hemp and its cousin marijuana. The exception to this rule has been hemp cultivation for research purposes; however obtaining a federal permit to conduct hemp research is challenging at best. States are much further ahead in recognizing hemp’s potential and making regulatory changes that make it easier to grow hemp, despite the federal ban.

Rural Vermont has been advocating for hemp for over a decade, and our state has made a lot of progress over the years. Hemp has been legal to grow in Vermont since 2009, but because of federal restrictions, farmers who choose to grow the crop are putting themselves at some risk of federal interference. This is finally changing. In 2018, Rural Vermont advocated for a bill that was signed into law in May 2018; this new law enables all Vermont farmers to cultivate hemp through a new federally-compliant pilot research program, administered by the VT Agency of Agriculture, that provides protection from federal prosecution.

 

The Hemp Pilot Program:

Some key features of the recently passed hemp pilot research program law include:

§  Opportunities to participate in research on cultivating, harvesting, processing and marketing hemp;

§  A legal and simpler way to obtain seed or other hemp genetics;

§  Forth-coming regulations for testing, quality control and labeling of hemp and hemp-derived products; and

§  A mandated public rule-making process to iron out all the details associated with the program’s implementation

The hemp pilot research program will be administered by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets (VAAFM). In order to participate, growers must submit an application to the VAAFM (including a $25 registration fee) within the calendar year they wish to grow. To grow in 2018, register in 2018; to grow in 2019, register in 2019. Registering for the program does not require you to grow hemp, and there is not a minimum acreage, or limited number of participants.

The registration form can be found here: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/plant_pest/plant_weed/hemp

Important: If you join the Hemp Pilot Program, you must use seeds that contain less than 0.3% THC by weight, and allow possible VAAFM inspections. If your cultivated hemp has concentrations of THC greater than 0.3%, you will not be penalized, but the hemp must either be sold to a registered marijuana dispensary, or the THC may be extracted and retained by the dispensary while the rest of the crop is returned to the grower, or the crop must be destroyed by the VAAFM. Growing hemp without being registered in the Hemp Pilot Program may subject growers to federal prosecution.

 

What next?

   If you are, or want to, grow hemp in 2018, register with the VAAFM.

  Stay tuned for updates about the upcoming rule-making process, in order to ensure that  the final rules are reasonable and enable maximum and fair participation by farmers and producers at all scales of operation.

 

For more information and questions, contact Rural Vermont at (802)223-7222 or info@ruralvermont.org.