Farmers grew nearly 4,000 acres of industrial hemp across 58 Michigan counties in 2019 as part of the state’s inaugural year of a pilot program to test the viability of the crop here.
The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development released a report today on the first year of the pilot program, based on a state survey of 514 licensees for growing and processing hemp. About 59 percent of survey respondents said they plan to grow hemp again this year, with the total acreage for outdoor growing expected to more than double. Another 20 percent of licensees were undecided.
“With such a significant increase in the projected amount of hemp planted outdoors in the 2020 season, 97 of the respondents reported that they anticipate the need to hire migrant farm workers,” the report says.
Berrien and Oceana counties were among state leaders in the amount of outdoor-grown hemp, while Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties led for indoor growing.
The pilot program followed the legislature’s enactment of the Michigan Industrial Hemp Research and Development Act in January 2019. The bill was in response to the 2014 federal Farm Bill, which allowed states to start pilot programs for studying industrial hemp.
“With the inaugural year of growing hemp for the first time in decades under our belt, Michigan is focused on taking the next steps with this emerging crop,” MDARD Director Gary McDowell said in a statement.
The pilot program was meant to provide research data on what types of hemp can be grown in Michigan. According to a state survey of registered growers, 35 percent were doing so to test varieties for seed, grain, fiber or CBD production, while others were testing the economic viability of hemp as an alternative crop (17 percent) or the marketability of hemp or hemp products (15 percent).
About 10 percent of license holders said they found a market for their hemp, mostly in the state.
“Growers harvested hemp so they could use or sell their crop to make various value-added products,” according to the report. “The most common type of products that hemp was harvested were for CBD or floral products.”
Registered growers planted crops from the end of April through July 2019, while the most common planting time frame took place in mid June. Most harvests took place in October. State survey responses showed weeds and insects as the top two challenges for growers.
As required under state law, growers are required to have crops tested for THC — the psychoactive component of cannabis plants — no less than 15 days before the anticipated harvest. The concentration of THC must be .3 percent or less.
The state reports that 27 percent of growers who had to destroy crops did so because it was non-compliant for THC levels, and the state reported an 84.4 percent compliance rate.
More than two-thirds of the hemp grown was done so by full-time, part-time or hobby farmers. The rest included academic researchers, brokers and processors. Most of the hemp was also grown on plots less than 1 acre, while nine registered growers planted more than 100 acres, according to the MDARD report.
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