Farm Bill legalizes hemp production

Congress has passed a Farm Bill that provides a heaping helping of legitimacy to hemp in that it will become a completely legal commodity.

Harvesting hemp, Photo Date: September 2007 / Cropped Photo: Aleks / CC BY-SA 3.0 / (MGN)

It remains to be seen if the current popularity of hemp oil will spark an "oil boom" for the agricultural community.

“CBD is relatively, it’s a hot ticket right now, Kentucky farmers are seeing anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 an acre, net. We expect that to level off soon,” said Jamie Campbell Petty with the Midwest Hemp Council.

Farmers in states like Kentucky and Montana have a hemp-growing head start. They took advantage of relaxed hemp rules spelled out in the 2014 Farm Bill.

“Some of the issues in the states where they have been producing the industrial hemp is that they're just set up for the oil side and not taking advantage of the fiber side of the plant, so it’s been a challenge to have enough compensation go back to the farmer,” said Bob Yoder, a Purdue University Extension educator based in Marshall County.

“One of the benefits of Indiana having moved so slow, we are going to learn from the mistakes of others,” Jamie Campbell Petty added.

Hemp could be used to make automotive door panels at the FlexForm plant in Elkhart. It could be a fuel alternative, a livestock and poultry feed, even an ingredient in batteries.

Hemp appears to have enormous long-term promise and potential that has been on hold for decades.

“Hemp can do so much more than what it's doing right now, and it did that in the past. But with having it on Schedule 1, it eliminated that potential,” Petty said.

"There will be an opportunity. It’s not going to happen tomorrow. It’s going to take time for the industries to be in place, to receive the crop and it's going to be a learning process on the quantity that we're going to need to produce to maintain a profitability,” Yoder concluded.

It looks like Indiana hemp growing will be on hold until lawmakers establish state regulations for things like the testing of THC levels in the plants.

Those who want to grow hemp must submit a plant to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to gain a license. The USDA has 60 days to approve, disapprove or amend the plan.