At the end of October, the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) announced that it has adopted regulations to expand the state’s industrial hemp program. These regulations, first introduced over the summer, move Maryland’s Hemp Program into compliance with the 2018 Farm Bill and will allow farmers to begin to farm industrial hemp “as an agricultural commodity,” as opposed to strictly for research which has been the case in Maryland until now under the Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program.
For the Hemp Farming Program, Maryland’s farmers can apply to produce and cultivate hemp commercially. Back in July, when the Maryland Hemp Program regulations were proposed and published in the Maryland Register, the proposal framed them as an economic boon for farmers and the state of Maryland.
“The proposed action will provide small businesses a meaningful opportunity to produce hemp in the State,” the proposal explained. “Under the program, hemp can be grown in Maryland and legally shipped in interstate commerce, which significantly expands potential business opportunities.”
To apply to be a grower or cultivator, Maryland hemp farmers have to be a yearly $500 license fee and an annual $50 application fee, as well as a $250 testing fee that is applied when the MDA samples and tests a farmer’s hemp for THC.
“For illustrative purposes only, if 100-150 persons apply for licensure and are, in fact, issued a license, special fund revenues would total $55,000-$80,000,” the proposal read. “And if samples are tested for THC, special fund revenues would increase an additional $125,000.”
The USDA’s website announced in August that, “the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced the approval of hemp production plans under the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program for Maryland and the Lower Sioux Indian Community, bringing the total number of approved plans to 55.”
As of November 1, the regulations adopted on October 30 go into effect: “Hemp is an emerging agricultural commodity that presents a new opportunity for farmers looking to diversify their operations,” said Secretary of Agriculture Joe Bartenfelder on the MDA’s website. “We have seen significant interest in the first two years of the Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program and we are excited to expand the state’s hemp industry with the new Hemp Farming Program.”
According to the regulations, a farmer can apply for a license at any time throughout the year and if approved, that license would be valid through the end of that year they applied. To renew the license each year, one must have it submitted by December 1. The applications for Maryland’s 2021 growing seasons should be published on the MDA website in the next few weeks, MDA’s Public Information Officer Megan Guilfoyle told The Outlaw Report.
Photo illustration by Kathy Wyche