Farmers to begin growing hemp in La. in spring, but must jump through some hoops first

Farmers to begin growing hemp in La. in spring, but must jump through some hoops first
Hemp farm (Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - We’re just a couple of months away from the first round of hemp being planted in Louisiana in several decades.

In spring of 2020, farmers will finally be able to grow hemp, the cousin to marijuana. Its growth was made legal federally after Congress approved the 2018 Farm Bill, but remained illegal to grow in Louisiana. In 2019, that changed when the state legislature passed a bill legalizing the plant.

This spring is the first year the crop can be grown in Louisiana , but before farmers can put the seed in the ground though, there are a lot of hoops must jump through.

"Before we start issuing license, we wanted to make sure all the potential participants were aware of the process and how to comply with the regulations and such,” said Lester Cannon, director of seed for the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF).

Hemp, unlike just about any other crop, has a litany of regulations surrounding it. Farmers must pass a federal background check and submit to random testing of their crop to ensure the THC levels do not exceed 0.3%. Any levels above that is considered marijuana by the federal government.

If the hemp tests over the set limits, the entire crop must be destroyed. Farmers can have their plants retested once after a failed sample, but if it fails again, the farmer must destroy the crop.

“The material we’re going to be regulating and dealing with is actually going to be industrial hemp,” Cannon said. “That’s the stuff under that 0.3.”

Farmers will have to be licensed before they can start growing. According to LDAF, those licenses will be issued shortly after the USDA releases its final rules for the plant. That’s expected to happen Feb. 20. Lester says once licenses are distributed, he expects seed to be in the ground by late April.

Copyright 2020 WAFB. All rights reserved.