NASHVILLE – In effort to broaden the opportunity and impact of the industrial hemp program for farmers and industry, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) is reopening the application period for industrial hemp grower and processor licenses through June 1, 2018.
“This is a proactive effort to assist Tennessee farmers who are looking to diversify, and we want to make sure they have every opportunity to do so,” Agriculture Commissioner Jai Templeton said. “We are seeing more interest in particular from tobacco growers who recently learned the company that purchases their crops would no longer buy tobacco from the U.S. We look forward to expanding the pilot program by reopening our application period.”
Applicants wishing to participate in the pilot program must submit an application, license fees, and required documentation, including a signed memorandum of understanding. At the end of the growing season, program participants are required to submit an agronomic report regarding the industrial hemp produced.
TDA has approved 170 applications from producers, which is more than double the number of applications approved in 2017. Producers have the option to cultivate up to 3,416 acres of industrial hemp for research purposes in 2018.
“By collaborating with universities like MTSU, TSU, and UT, more information and options are becoming available to Tennessee hemp growers each year,” Templeton said. “As we also see an increase in processors, producers, and available hemp varieties, we expect this sector of Tennessee’s agriculture industry to continue to grow and develop.”
Of the approved applicants, 152 are focused on growing hemp for oil, 9 for fiber, 5 for seed production, and 1 each for tea, greens, protein powder, and health.
In 2017, 79 growers planted 130 acres of hemp, 64 growers planted 225 acres in 2016, and 44 growers planted 660 acres in 2015.
There are currently 70 licensed processors, with more approvals expected in the coming months. With approximately 83% of hemp processors in Tennessee focusing on extraction oil and 6% focusing on fiber, the other 10% choose to process for educational research, animal feed, seed press, seed cleaning, juicing, or protein supplement.
In 2014, the Tennessee General Assembly enacted Public Chapter 916 tasking the department with development of a licensing and inspection program for the production of industrial hemp in Tennessee. As provided in Sec. 7606 of the 2014 Farm Bill, industrial hemp may only be grown as part of a research or pilot project.