As defined in Section 7606 of the Farm Bill and Minnesota Statue 18K, Section 2, industrial hemp is the plant Cannabis sativa L., and any part of the plant, whether growing or not, containing a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration of not more than 0.3% on a dry weight basis.
All first-time applicants must submit an application, a set of fingerprints, an Informed Consent Form to authorize the MDA to conduct a federal/state criminal background check on their behalf, a $37 payment, and a detailed map of your field. Fingerprints may be obtained from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) or your local sheriff or police department.
Returning/renewing applicants do not need to submit another background check. Returning applicants must submit an application, a detailed map of their field, and disclose if they have had any felony or gross misdemeanor drug convictions in the last year.
Always consult with a lawyer to make sure you understand the legal parameters of program participation. Pilot participants are responsible for knowing and abiding by all applicable federal and state laws.
Each license expires on December 31 of the year issued. Each year, pilot participants must reapply to be in the program.
The MDA Hemp Pilot Program is an agricultural research program and as such, the pilot participants' names, contact and location information are private and must be protected by the MDA. However, we recognize a desire among our certificate holders to network and make connections among each other and with other members of the industrial hemp industry. Starting in 2018, we are giving certificate holders the option to opt-in to a public list of hemp pilot program participants. Individuals who opt-in will be added to the list once their application is approved and they are fully licensed.
This list will be published on the MDA website sometime during the summer of 2018. The MDA is currently migrating all web content over to a new website management system.
In the meantime, contact Margaret Wiatrowski to view a copy of the list of certificate holders.
Participants are required to pay the requisite MDA fees and to allow unfettered access to the hemp fields for MDA inspection and sampling. Participants are required to take reasonable measures to prevent theft or diversion of their industrial hemp plants and seed, and cooperate with law enforcement if necessary.
Certificate holders also are required to submit several reporting forms throughout the growing season, including Seed Transfer Agreements, a Planting Report, and a Final Report, due by December 15. The information we require for the final report will include agronomic data, like seeding rate, cultivation methods, yield, pesticide/fertilizer use, etc.
Participants should gather this data throughout the growing season in preparation for the MDA report. The 2017 MDA Hemp Pilot Program Report is now available.
An MDA inspector will sample each field grown by pilot participants. The fields are sampled within 30 days of harvest. The samples will be submitted to an accredited lab in St. Paul for cannabinoid profile analysis by High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC).
The participant has the option to request a second test. This sample would also be collected by an MDA inspector and analyzed by HPLC test. The cost of this second sampling and test will be borne by the pilot participant. If the grower declines to pay for a second sample and test, or if the hemp samples fail a second time, the grower will be ordered to destroy their fields. In 2016 and 2017, all MDA industrial hemp plots were planted with varieties from the Health Canada Approved Varieties list, and were tested and found to be well below the 0.3% delta-9 THC threshold.
Federal agencies do not recognize industrial hemp as an agricultural crop. Hemp is still lumped together with marijuana and listed in Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act. Due to these reasons, hemp farmers cannot get federal crop insurance for hemp. The USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) does not record or report on hemp acreage because they do not recognize it as an agricultural crop.
Prospective hemp farmers should speak with their local FSA service center to determine how their federal crop support programs might be affected by participation in the MDA hemp pilot program.
Yes, you can grow indoors as long as you clearly indicate your research goals and production methods on your application. The THC-compliance testing schedule may be altered if the participant’s cultivation schedule differs from the normal, outdoor growing season.
Due to the fact that this is a pilot research program, all the participant and field location data is private and protected. Please refer to the Minnesota Data Privacy Act (MS 13.643 Subd. 7) for more information.
We will publish a list of those certificate holder that give written consent to make their contact information public. All certificate holders’ data will be private and protected unless they explicitly give authorization.
Once you register your hemp fields with us, we will share your field location and contact information with local law enforcement, including the sheriff, police department, and the regional drug task force. For this reason, it is essential that you provide accurate field location information and maps. Ultimately, the grower gains protection from unwanted attention and it saves law enforcement time and money on unnecessary investigations.
No, you do not. If you are concerned about trespassing or vandalism in your field due to the proximity to a busy road, for example, then you may post signs to deter attention, but it is not required.
We do not put restrictions on hemp production locations as part of the hemp application and certification process. You may be subject to individual township or city zoning rules, which you are responsible for knowing and complying with.
Yes, all individuals or businesses that wish to grow, process, research, or test hemp, or sell hemp seed, must obtain an MDA hemp pilot program certificate. There is one certificate that covers all activities regarding industrial hemp in Minnesota. So if you already have a current certificate to grow hemp, then you may process hemp as well. Just make sure you clearly explain all your proposed activities and methods on your annual application.
In addition to these FAQs, also refer to the 2017 MDA Hemp Pilot Program Report.
Seeding too early can cause seedling mortality due to cold soils and pathogens. Ideal seeding dates for hemp production in Minnesota are between mid-May and mid-June. Soil temperatures should be at least 45-50 degrees Fahrenheit.
General seeding recommendations is between 20-40 lbs per acre for grain production, and 40-60 lbs per acre for fiber production. A lot of factors go into determining the optimal seeding rate for your field, including the variety, seed purity and germ, local conditions, etc. There are excellent recommendations for seeding in the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance’s (CHTA) Hemp Production eGuide.
According to the CHTA, “hemp fits in with typical crop rotation systems and with typical equipment that would already be found in a grain production system.” Please visit the CHTA’s Hemp Production eGuide for much more information on hemp agronomy.
Most conventional drills and seeders will work for hemp. Use lower air volumes to avoid seed cracking. Seed shallowly (0.5”-1” maximum) into a firm seedbed. Avoid soil compaction and do not seed before a large rain event. Please visit the CHTA’s Hemp Production eGuide for much more information on hemp harvesting.
Yes, you can grow certified organic hemp on organic land just as you would any other crop. The National Organic Program (NOP) does allow organic certification of hemp grain and fiber. They have indicated they may not certify cannabinoid extracts produced from hemp, but each local certifier may handle this matter differently. Please visit NOP’s website or speak with your local organic certifier for more information.
Currently, no pesticides are labeled for use on hemp in the U.S.
Yes, hemp has similar nutrient needs as canola and especially requires added nitrogen. General guidelines for fertilizer rates can be found on the CHTA’s Hemp Production eGuide.
Hemp grain harvesting is generally done by straight combining, however swathing is also used. Please visit the CHTA’s Hemp Production eGuide for much more information on hemp harvesting.
Generally, crop maturity is between 90-120 days after planting, depending on the variety and local climatic conditions. Industrial hemp seed is harvested when approximately 75% of the seeds are ripe and it starts to shatter. High winds can accelerate shattering. Bird predation can also be a major problem. (CHTA's Hemp Production eGuide) Recommendations are to harvest at 18-20% moisture and immediately begin the drying process. Dry grain to 8-10% moisture for storage.
Yields can vary widely depending on the variety, local climatic conditions, cultivation method, and grower experience. For grain, new growers have reported yields between 250-700 lbs/acre. More experienced growers can expect between 800- 1,800+ lbs/acre.
For fiber, the average yield for dual purpose crops (those varieties which are harvested for grain and fiber) is 0.75-2 tons/acre. For hemp produced solely for fiber, the average yield is between 3-5 tons per acre.
Different varieties are better for different purposes. Whether you chose to grow for fiber or grain production will determine which varieties you will want to grow. You may refer to either the Health Canada List of Approved Cultivars for the 2017 Growing Season or the OECD List of Varieties eligible for seed certification (pages 132-133) for top performing varieties for grain and fiber production.
In 2017, the University of Minnesota conducted an agronomic study of commercially available industrial hemp varieties to compare grain and oil yields across various agricultural regions of Minnesota. Please read the summary of the University of Minnesota variety trials for more information.
"Hemp has a large root capable of penetrating deep in the soil profile to recover nutrients that may be lost to many other crops, up to the 24-inch level” according to the CHTA’s Hemp Production eGuide.
There are a few documented cases in Oregon of deer predation destroying entire fields. In Minnesota, we have not heard reports of deer causing damage to hemp fields.
Once they are approved, licensed by MDA, and submit their program fees, the pilot participant can order industrial hemp seed from Canada or the EU. The only varieties that are permitted under the pilot program are those on either the Health Canada List of Approved Cultivars for the 2017 Growing Season or the OECD List of Varieties eligible for seed certification (pages 132-133).
The seed will be imported under MDA's Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) import permits and shipped to the MDA building. The MDA will receive the seed shipments, process them for intake, and then transfer custody to the pilot participant. The pilot participant will be required to sign an agreement upon receipt of the seed that they will transport it and store it in a secure manner, take reasonable measures to prevent diversion of the seed, and report any loss or diversion of seed to
MDA. Failure to follow these rules will result in expulsion from the pilot program.
The harvested grain can only be used for processing. Seed harvested from a pilot project cannot be saved or sold for propagation in the future, unless it is done under the Minnesota Crop Improvement Association’s seed certification program.
The initial labeler—the first person or company to label and sell seed in Minnesota—must have a seed permit. Permit categories and fees are determined by the type, intended use, and amount sold annually. Generally, those that only sell seed labeled by another person or firm do not need a permit. Please visit the MDA Seed Program for more information.
Breeding can only be done under the supervision of an academic breeding or plant geneticist, with the written consent of the owner of the parent plant material.
Yes, if you are buying hemp grain with the purpose of reselling the grain or products made from the grain. In addition to a license, a bond must be acquired. Please visit the MDA Grain Licensing webpage for more information and to apply.
In addition to these FAQs, also refer to the 2017 MDA Hemp Pilot Program Report.
The MDA pilot program only covers hemp cultivation, processing, and marketing within the state of Minnesota. It is not a violation of our program rules to sell hemp seed, grain, plant material, or hemp products produced in the state of Minnesota to other U.S. states. Such activity may violate other state laws or federal laws. It is the responsibility of the individual to understand all applicable federal laws and other states’ hemp laws.
If the pilot participant wishes to sell seed to another state with a Hemp Program, the importer or destination state will initiate and arrange the seed shipment.
However, you cannot sell or transport hemp seed that was imported from outside the country via the MDA’s DEA importer registration permits. That imported seed must be planted or processed within the state. All transfer of such imported seed is documented as per DEA’s reporting requirements, from import to transfer to certificate holder, to planting in the ground.
The Industrial Hemp Pilot Program does not provide grants nor do we facilitate granting opportunities. However, MDA’s Ag Marketing Division does facilitate a variety of grants, which could be applied for and used by a pilot participant. Any grants used by a pilot would have no bearing on the pilot program itself; they would be held to the rules of the pilot program and would have to meet the grant demands separately. Please visit MDA’s Grant Opportunities page to learn more about this opportunity.
The Agriculture Utilization Research Institute (AURI) is a nonprofit created by the Minnesota state legislature to help develop new markets for Minnesota-grown agricultural products. They have resources and funding opportunities that are accessible to those who qualify for AURI assistance. Please visit AURI’s webpage to learn more.
No, residents of other states may get a Minnesota hemp pilot program certificate. The land that they grow hemp on must be in Minnesota, however. An MDA hemp pilot certificate only covers activities within the state of Minnesota. So, a processor would only be covered by their MDA certificate for processing done within Minnesota.
A pilot producer may contract acres for production of industrial hemp, but only if each individual grower has submitted a completed application to MDA, declared all production locations, passed a BCA criminal background check, and paid all appropriate fees.
A pilot producer can grow hemp on rented land as long as the landowner is aware that hemp will be grown on their property, gives their consent, and understands that MDA will perform routine inspections and plant sampling in the fields. The pilot producer must also provide the MDA with the landowner's name and contact information.
Prices for hemp grain are widely fluctuating in the U.S. and in Minnesota specifically due to the infancy and constant development of the industry. According to the Alberta Agriculture and Forestry Department, the average hemp grain price in 2015 in Alberta was $0.74 per pound. Typical returns for hemp grain in the U.S. have been between $0.40-0.70 per pound for conventional, and $0.75-1.00 per pound for organic. Due to the volatile nature of the current U.S. hemp industry, growers are advised to secure a contract before they plant.
The Alberta Agriculture and Forestry Department reported an average total production cost for hemp seed grown on dryland in 2015 at $409 per acre. With an average grain yield of 1,074 pounds per acre, that amounted to $0.38 per pound of hemp seed produced.
In Minnesota, hemp seed prices are widely variable based on the variety and the source. Imported seed has additional shipping and customs fees above and beyond domestically produced seed. Farmers should also consider the possibility of needing to buy or rent new harvesting equipment if they grow hemp. In 2016, hemp producers in Minnesota reported costs per acre between $970-$2,500 per acre. In 2017, initial reports indicate production costs of between $300-$600 per acre (does not include land cost).
The market is limited and constantly in flux for hemp in the U.S. due to many different factors. In Minnesota, hemp cultivation has only been legal for 2 years, and no processing facilities remain after a 70 year prohibition. Growers are responsible for locating buyers of their harvest. We encourage interested individuals to contact a hemp trade association to learn more about marketing opportunities, such as the Hemp Industries Association or the National Hemp Association.
Yes, certain hemp products may be exported to other countries, such as processed hemp foods, hemp grain, seed, fiber, etc. The requirements for export vary by the specific product and the importing country. Please contact the MDA’s Export Certification Program for more information.
You can make food products from the hemp seed or grain. Please contact the MDA’s Food and Feed Safety Division to see if you are required to get a retail or wholesale food handler license.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) to be drugs; as such they cannot be found in any traceable amount in food. This means you cannot sell a food product made from the seedlings (sprouts), leaves, or flowers of the hemp plant. Please see the FDA's guidelines on this subject or contact the MDA’s Food and Feed Safety Division for more information.
You can produce oil or extract from hemp plants under your hemp pilot certificate, as long as you clearly explain all proposed activities and methods on your annual hemp program application. You cannot produce or market CBD oil as a medicine or make any medical claims on the label or in marketing. You cannot sell a product intended for human consumption in Minnesota if it has any traces of cannabinoids in it, such as CBD or THC. Please see the FDA’s guidelines on this subject for more information.
You need a basic MDA hemp pilot program certificate if you are processing hemp materials in any way. Please visit the hemp program application webpage for instructions on how to apply.
If you will be manufacturing a product intended for human consumption, then you should contact the MDA's Food and Feed Safety Division to see if you are required to get a retail or wholesale food handler license.
Hemp is not currently an approved ingredient for commercial animal feed. Therefore, hemp material cannot be sold as animal feed. An individual farmer may feed hemp to their own livestock. Please contact the MDA Commercial Feed Program for more information.
No. The MDA Commercial Feed Program and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations of pet food are similar to that for other animal food. That means hemp is not an approved ingredient for pet food either. An individual or company selling pet food with hemp ingredients in Minnesota would result in the products being withdrawn from distribution. Please contact the MDA’s Pet Food Program within the Commercial Feed Program for more information.
Industrial Hemp Program Coordinator