Wyoming hemp: WDA provides update on Wyoming’s first hemp growing season
Wyoming Department of Agriculture (WDA) Director Doug Miyamoto gave an update on the state’s first year of hemp production at the Women’s Ag Symposium Nov. 13 in Casper.
“Hemp is a very heavily regulated crop, and for the last year WDA has been working to get the Wyoming Hemp Program implemented,” said Miyamoto. “We have the 2020 growing season on the books.”
Miyamoto explained hemp is a new crop to Wyoming, with the ability to raise the crop coming out of the 2018 Farm Bill. Before the 2018 Farm Bill, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recognized all Cannabis sativa plants as a Schedule One narcotic.
Now, Cannabis sativa with the psychoactive compound, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), level lower than 0.3 percent is recognized as hemp, while by federal definition, the plants with a THC content of greater than 0.3 percent are classified as marijuana.
The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act and tasked the USDA with writing rules to regulate the crop, outlining restrictions for growing and processing the crop, making it eligible for crop insurance and allowing transportation of hemp between states.
“Our legislature went into session right after the farm bill was signed, and they introduced a bill to produce hemp in Wyoming and have WDA regulate the hemp industry,” shared Miyamoto. “Wyoming House Bill 171 required WDA to submit a regulatory plan to the USDA and provided funding for the purchase of equipment and program implementation through WDA, along with repealing the 2017 Wyoming hemp legislation.”
WDA’s hemp plan has since adapted from the original plan to meet all requirements set forth in the 2018 Farm Bill and comply with federal regulations on monitoring hemp harvest, processing and transportation.
“Because hemp is new, and because it is the same plant as marijuana, we are required to keep a lot more information about the crop and those who grow it,” noted Miyamoto.
“We worked very closely with our counterparts in Colorado on every aspect of sampling hemp,” he continued. “WDA also took a lot of information from other states on equipment, standards and methodology. Wyoming hemp standards are basically industry standards.”
WDA offers three different types of licenses. Those looking to grow hemp can apply for a producer’s license, while those looking to turn hemp into products can apply for a processor’s license. Operations looking to grow and process the crop can do so under a producer-processor license.
“Our plan meets requirements set forth in the 2018 Farm Bill requiring us to track licenses and have a plan to rid of crops above the allowed THC level,” said Miyamoto.
2020 growing season
“In Wyoming’s first hemp production season, WDA issued 28 licenses – 10 were producer licenses, four were processing licenses and 14 licenses for operations doing some combination of both,” Miyamoto explained. “We have around 1,000 acres licensed to grow hemp and 17 of the 28 licensees have submitted samples to test for THC.”
Miyamoto shared of those submitted samples, most have passed the THC concentration limits. However, two of the first three samples analyzed failed, giving a rough start to the season.
He noted the department needed the opportunity during this year’s growing season to get data on hemp production in Wyoming and learn about the crop.
“Under the 2014 Farm Bill, WDA or the University of Wyoming could have grown hemp for research purposes, but we couldn’t get the funding for seeds and establishing crops,” Miyamoto said.
“I think hemp probably does provide opportunities for producers, but they have to know going into production what the requirements and regulations are and how strict they are,” Miyamoto shared. “Regulatory implications cut into profitability, but as long as producers know what they are doing, I think there is some opportunity for hemp.”
Hemp is mostly grown for CBD oil, grain, seeds and fiber, Miyamoto explained. However, he shared acreage is down significantly because the market was flooded. The result – hemp is not worth much today.
“There are significant oversupplies of hemp and hemp products at the farm level,” he said. “The amount of CBD biomass in storage ready for processing is down 84 percent and the price of bulk hemp oil is down 94 percent.”
“The market is not good. It will stabilize at some point, but unfortunately, there are a lot of producers and processors who are going to lose a lot of money before the market does stabilize,” he continued.
Miyamoto shared all of the regulatory challenges have impacted the hemp industry, and he offered those interested in hemp to understand the requirements. Anytime something is so regulated it often translates into impacts on the ability of producers to make money.
“I do think today there are growers making money on hemp, but there is a whole lot more who have lost,” he said. “It’s the only crop which becomes a federally illegal narcotic if THC levels increase. If it goes bad, the only option we have is to destroy the crop and this has the ability to really limit profitability.”
The University of Wyoming Extension is planning to host a hemp workshop in January and February. For more information, visit uwyo.edu/imp/ag-imp/hemp-ipm.html.
Averi Hales is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.