Tennessee hemp industry growing by thousands of farmers

Posted at 8:07 PM, Jun 03, 2019

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The amount of hemp grown in Tennessee is about to increase by nearly tenfold in 2019.

According to data from the Tennessee Hemp Growers Coalition, the amount of farmed acres will increase from about 4,700 in 2018, to an estimated 38,000 acres in 2019.

"Last year we had 276 farmers grow hemp in Tennessee and now we've exceeded 2,700," said Kelley Hess, executive director of TN Hemp Growers Coalition.

Hess said Tennessee is seeing explosive growth in the industry. She said it's partly because Tennessee got into the game early. The state started a pilot program in 2015 when the first Farm Bill legalizing its growth was signed.

She said rural communities should see a huge boost because of the industry's growth.

"This is just an opportunity who have that equipment and have that land available to grow an alternative crop that can really generate revenue and help them tremendously and help the economy," said Hess.

On June 3, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture announced ruled changes for the state's hemp program to better serve hemp producers.

“Farmers have been growing and researching this crop in Tennessee since the program began in 2015 as a pilot program,” Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Hatcher, D.V.M. said. “The hemp industry and federal laws have changed in recent years, and we’re updating our program rules to be more consistent with how other crop programs are managed.

Other program changes include:
· Hemp processors will no longer be required to register through TDA.
· The hemp program will no longer issue licenses for certified seed breeders. However, anyone manufacturing, distributing, or labeling seed should be licensed through TDA’s Ag Inputs section.
· Growers will still need movement permits when transporting rooted plants and are now required to be permitted when moving harvested hemp from their growing site.

Federal and state laws require Tennessee hemp growers be licensed through TDA’s hemp program. The application period for a license to grow hemp is now open year-round. Grower applications can be found online here. Licenses will expire June 30 of each year, and all grower licenses issued in 2019 will expire June, 2020.

To celebrate Tennessee's growth, a Tennessee Hemp Victory Bash and Summit event will be held in Nashville on Thursday. Speakers will talk about the state of the hemp industry and there will be a number of fun events going on as well.