LANSING—Farmers, processors and institutions of higher learning who are interested in Michigan’s newest agricultural crop, industrial hemp, will now have an opportunity to test the waters under the state’s new Industrial Hemp Ag Pilot Program.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development announced the State of Michigan’s Industrial Hemp Ag Pilot Program for the 2019 planting season to allow the growth, cultivation and marketing of Michigan grown industrial hemp.

“Michigan is uniquely positioned to grow, process and manufacture industrial hemp,” Whitmer said in a press release. “We are one of the nation’s most agriculturally diverse states, growing 300 different commodities on a commercial basis, making it a natural fit. This emerging crop not only cultivates new opportunity for our farming community, but it also creates an avenue for new businesses to crop up across the state.”

The 2018 federal Farm Bill authorizes the commercial production and processing of industrial hemp in the United States. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is in the process of implementing a national program with the intent to have it in place for the 2020 growing season. In the meantime, MDARD is using authority in the 2014 Farm Bill for an Industrial Hemp Ag Pilot Program.

“Michigan’s pilot program allows our farmers to explore the production and processing for hemp to determine whether or not this is a financially viable crop for them,” said MDARD Director Gary McDowell. “It also helps pave the way for Michigan growers as we move toward a permanent licensing program next year to identify and expand value-added hemp processing and new market prospects.”

The 2014 Farm Bill permits an institute of higher learning or MDARD to grow industrial hemp for research purposes as part of an agricultural pilot program. If MDARD approves a hemp ag pilot program application, a person participating in the Industrial Hemp Ag Pilot Program will be required to obtain a license and enter into a research agreement with MDARD. Persons who comply with the terms of a research agreement will be considered by MDARD to be conducting research on behalf of the department as permitted under the 2014 Farm Bill.

MDARD is in the process of scheduling several events where interested participants can apply for and obtain a research agreement.

Forms for a grower registration, a processor-handler license, and participation in MDARD’s 2019 Hemp Ag Pilot Program are now available. The department will begin accepting applications April 23. Grower registration costs $100 and a processor-handler license costs $1,350. More information on industrial hemp, details and requirements for licensure, and a schedule of the licensing events at the MSU Ag Pavilion in East Lansing is available at www.Michigan.gov/IndustrialHemp.

This story was published by Technology Century.