Common Questions
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Home > Plants, Pests & Pest Control > Industrial Hemp Program > Common Questions

FAQs Regarding Minnesota's Industrial Hemp Pilot Program

What is industrial hemp?

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.

How do I apply to grow hemp?

You must submit an application, authorization for MDA to obtain a federal/state criminal history background check from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) on your behalf, an official fingerprint card, a detailed map, and location information of your field(s). The application for the 2018 season will be posted in mid-December.

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. 

Why is it now legal to grow hemp in Minnesota?

Provisions added to the 2014 Farm Bill (Public Law 113-79) defined industrial hemp for the first time under federal law and granted state agricultural departments the authority to develop research pilot programs to study the growth, cultivation, or marketing of industrial hemp. While the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) currently recognizes no distinction between industrial hemp and marijuana, the language of the new Farm Bill provisions have drawn a line between the two types of Cannabis sativa L. and have allowed states to adopt their own pilot programs to grow industrial hemp. 

The Minnesota Industrial Hemp Development Act (IHDA), Minnesota Statutes 18K, became law at the conclusion of the 2015 legislative session. The law provides a framework for commercial industrial hemp production in Minnesota following approval by the federal government. The Minnesota IHDA also provides for the development of a research pilot program, to be administered by MDA.

How do the pilot program participants get hemp seed?

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. Seed cannot be ordered or obtained from other U.S. states. 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). All varieties on this list are certified according to AOSCA and OECD standards, as required by the application.

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.

How do you know my field's THC content?

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 a High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) which analyzes the cannabinoid profile of the samples.

What if my plants test above the acceptable 0.3% delta-9 threshold?

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, all MDA industrial hemp plots were planted with varieties from the Health Canada Approved Varieties list, and all were tested and found to be well below the 0.3% delta-9 THC threshold.

How long is my pilot production license good for?

Each license expires on December 31 of the year issued.

What can I do with my hemp plants at the end of the season?

Pilot participants are allowed to harvest and process any hemp seed, fiber, and hurd that they produce. They may process these items themselves or sell them for processing or use. The harvested seed 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. Each year, pilot participants must reapply to be in the program.

What are the marketing opportunities like in Minnesota? What kind of price can I expect to get for hemp material if I grow it? 

MDA is not responsible for or equipped to assist a pilot participant with any “growth, cultivation, or marketing” of industrial hemp through the efforts of this pilot program. Under MS 18K, MDA is primarily responsible for registering growers, facilitating legal certified seed importation into the state, certifying fields/production areas, and testing industrial hemp crops to ensure 0.3% delta-9 THC levels are being met. At this time, we only have funding to administer the program according to statutes.

MDA is not responsible for a pilot participant’s business plan or activities and will not be a mediator between pilot participants and any business associates or partners. 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.

Can I grow hemp under contract with someone else?

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.  

Am I required to do anything else if I participate in the pilot program?

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.

You are also required to submit an agronomic report to MDA by December 15. This requirement can be met by filling out the MDA report form which will be sent to each certificate holder in November. The information we gather will include agronomic data, like seeding rate, cultivation methods, yield, pesticide/fertilizer use, etc. Pilots should gather this data throughout the growing season in preparation for the MDA report.

Are there any funding or grant opportunities for pilot program participants?

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.

MDA Contact

Margaret Wiatrowski
Industrial Hemp Program Coordinator