Stricter potency THC testing formula, doubling of acreage fees could squeeze out more than a quarter of state’s current number of hemp producers.
Passage of the 2018 Farm Bill was instrumental in the growth of the hemp/CBD sector. The legislation also instructed states and tribes to draw up their own hemp programs and submit them to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for approval. Several states did so, creating their own hemp programs. Farmers in Maine, however, have offered their opinions on their state’s proposed hemp rules, and a lot of them are negative.
The 2018 Farm Bill made a clear distinction between marijuana and hemp, classifying cannabis with less than 0.3% THC as legal Industrial hemp. THC is the chemical that creates marijuana’s infamous high, and farmers planning on growing hemp had to meet that low level of this compound.
According to Maine’s farmers, the state is planning on introducing stricter, more costly hemp farming rules, and they are urging state agriculture officials to lower licensing costs and retain the current system for testing THC levels.
The state plans on adopting how it defines hemp by using stricter guidelines for allowable THC levels. According to hemp producers in the state, this new potency formula would lock out 27% of farmers who grew hemp last summer. The hemp referred to as ‘hot hemp’ will have to be destroyed according to federal regulations.
FARMERS HAVE THEIR SAY
A group of farmers testified on the state’s proposed hemp rules on Tuesday, Jan. 7, and they asked if the state could delay implementation for a year or consider allowing farmers to remove excess THC from hot hemp so the product can still meet federal and state regulations.
Ben Marcus, a hemp farmer based in the town of Whitefield, called the THC threshold a political number that had nothing to do with any scientific data about the plant’s effects on consumers. Although he complied with all the state’s hemp rules last season, he says the same crop would test hot with the proposed rules.
“I’d like to keep access to the same genetics as I did last year because they did great,” he said.
Farmers will also have a hard time buying hemp seeds. While most of them would like to use the same genetics they used last year, the proposed rules would prevent them from doing so. They would have to switch to new strains, and since the demand for these new strains will be high, prices will also increase. This would translate to higher operational costs and smaller profit margins.
The new rule would also double the per-acre fee for hemp from $50 to $100. State officials have said this is to pay for a new program manager and a full-time seasonal inspector, but farmers have said this will double the fees for small farmers. Hemp farmer Erica Haywood compared the cost of growing 49 acres of hemp in Maine and North Carolina, with North Carolina farmers parting with $504 but Maine costing $6,440.
Gary Fish, the state’s hemp program manager assures farmers the department will do all it can to work with them. He says the proposed rule isn’t set in stone, and the department will be “as flexible as possible within state and federal law.”