The West Virginia Department of Agriculture issued 158 individual licenses under its new industrial hemp program for 2019—more than triple the amount issued in 2018.
The licenses included 71 applicants who marked processing as part of their submission and a proposed total acreage to be grown by licensees is 2,531, according to Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt.
“It is obvious West Virginia farmers are excited to tap into this new, legal cash crop," Leonhardt said.
"It is great to see a large majority of applicants have shown some interest in becoming a processor. Taking raw materials and adding value to them will help West Virginia’s industry thrive.”
In 2018, the department licensed 46 industrial hemp growers who grew roughly 155 acres of crop.
The increased interest is largely due to a growing national interest and legislation passed by the West Virginia Legislature in 2017 which allows cultivation of industrial hemp for commercial purposes.
On December 20, 2018, President Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill, which included a provision to legalize the commercial cultivation of industrial hemp.
The bill removed industrial hemp from the list of federally controlled substances while clarifying industrial hemp producers may participate in U.S. Department of Agriculture programs.
“We are still in a holding pattern until more federal guidelines are released this fall, but at least we know West Virginia is ahead of the game on this emerging industry,” Leonhardt said.
"We will update our law to respond to any changes in policy or regulation from our federal partners once more information is released."
Oversight to regulate cultivation will continue to rest with individual state departments of agriculture upon approval by the USDA, Leonhardt said, and state pilot projects are to operate under existing rules until it issues rules and regulations sometime this fall.