People have many questing about our Industrial Hemp Pilot Program. To help answers common questions, we've but together a list of Frequently Asked Questions. It is divided into several main categories:

General Pilot Program Questions

What is industrial hemp?

As defined in Section 7606 of the Farm Bill (7 U.S.C. § 5940 Section 7606) 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. Although the Farm Bill created the opportunity for licensees to grow hemp for research, it did not removed hemp from the federal Controlled Substances Act.

What is the history behind the industrial hemp pilot program?

The 2014 Farm Bill contains a provision to allow state departments of agriculture to administer pilot programs to study the growth, cultivation, and marketing of industrial hemp.  In 2015, the Minnesota Industrial Hemp Development Act (IHDA), Minnesota Statues 18K, became law. This allowed MDA to create an industrial hemp research pilot program. The MDA obtained a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Schedule 1 Narcotic Importer Research Registration in 2016 to facilitate importation of hemp seed from other countries.

In 2016, there were 6 pilot participants in Minnesota who grew industrial hemp in MDA's pilot program. It was a historic year, as we saw the harvest of approximately 40 acres of hemp in Minnesota for the first time since the 1950s. In 2017, there were 38 registered pilot participants, who grew 1,205 acres. In 2018, there were 51 pilot participants, who grew 710 acres.

How do I apply to grow hemp?

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,police department, or county courthouse. 

Returning/renewing applicants do not need to pass 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. 

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Female Hemp Plant, photo by the MDA

How long is my pilot license good for?

Each license expires on December 31 of the year issued. Each year, pilot participants must reapply to be in the program. 

Can I see a list of the current grower and processor license holders?

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 (M.S. 13.643 subd. 7). However, we recognize a desire among our license holders to network and make connections among each other and with other members of the industrial hemp industry. We are now giving license 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.

Please view the Current License Holder page for this information.

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

Licensees are required to pay the requisite fees and to allow unfettered access to the hemp fields for MDA inspection and sampling. Licensees 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. Licensees must submit any changes to their license, including changes to field or processing location, to the MDA, prior to operating at a new, unregistered location.

License holders also are required to submit two reporting forms throughout the growing season--a Planting/Harvest Report and a Final Report, due by December 15. The information we will ask for on 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.

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 cannabinoid profile analysis by High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC).

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.

How does growing hemp affect my FSA and/or federal crop insurance contracts or program participation? 

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.

Can I grow hemp inside a greenhouse or building? 

Yes, you can grow indoors as long as you clearly indicate your research goals and production methods on your application. Growing inside any enclosed area, whether a building, greenhouse, or hoop house, is considered “indoor” growing. The grower license fees cover one MDA inspection and THC test. If the license holder will be harvesting more than once per year, they have to file a Planting/Harvest Report within 30 days of each harvest, and pay an additional $250 per inspection.

Do I need to notify the sheriff/local police or does MDA do it? 

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. 

Do I need to build a fence or put up signs around my field? 

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.

Can I grow hemp near a school, a town, or a major road? Are there restrictions on where I can grow it?

We do not put restrictions on hemp production locations as part of the hemp application and licensing process. You may be subject to individual township or city zoning rules, which you are responsible for knowing and complying with.

Do I need a license to process hemp? 

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 license. There is one license for growers and one for processors/handlers. If you want to obtain both licenses, then you must submit two applications.

An industrial hemp processor means a person or business that stores, handles, or converts raw industrial hemp into a marketable product. For the purposes of licensing, this definition also includes handlers; a person or business that handles, stores, or sells raw industrial hemp, including seed for planting and clones.

Do I have to be a Minnesota resident to get an MDA hemp pilot license?

No, residents of other states may get a Minnesota hemp pilot program license. The land that they grow hemp on must be in Minnesota, however.  An MDA hemp pilot license only covers activities within the state of Minnesota. So, a processor would only be covered by their MDA license for processing done within Minnesota.

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.  

Do I have to own the land I want to grow hemp on? 

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.

If my hemp license is in my business name, do all of my employees have to pass a background check?

No. At least one individual person must be on the license and pass a criminal history background check. That individual would be the responsible party under the license and the only one that can pick up hemp seed from the MDA, or communicate with the MDA/file reports on behalf of the license.  The licensee can choose to add additional people to the license or designate them as Authorized Representatives. Any such individuals would also need to pass a criminal history background check.

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Agronomics

In addition to these FAQs, also refer to the 2017 MDA Hemp Pilot Program Report.

When do you plant hemp?

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.  

How many pounds per acre do you plant? 

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.

Can you plant hemp on hemp? How does it fit in to a crop rotation? 

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.

How do you sow it? What equipment and at what depth? Can you broadcast or do you have to drill? 

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.  

Can I grow hemp organically? 

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. 

Do you need to fertilize the hemp? 

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.

How do you harvest it? 

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.  

When do you harvest it?

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.

What kind of yield can I get? 

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.

What are the best varieties?

Different varieties are better for different purposes. Whether you chose to grow for fiber,grain, or CBD 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.

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Seed

Hemp seed, photo by MDA
Hemp seed, photo by the MDA

Where can I buy hemp seed from?

Once they are approved, licensed by MDA, and submit their program fees, the pilot participant can obtain industrial hemp seed from in-state, domestic, or international sources. Only hemp license holders are legally allowed to possess industrial hemp seeds and other propagative material in the State of Minnesota. Industrial hemp seed and other propagative material that is not registered with a valid hemp license is considered illegal marijuana under state law.  Please contact the MDA Industrial Hemp Pilot Program for more information on ordering hemp seed.

Can I save seed for planting the following year?

Seed harvested by a licensed hemp grower can be saved or sold for propagation in the future as long as they are not prohibited from such activities by a Seed/Material Usage Agreement signed between the grower and the seed distributor.Certified hemp seed can only be produced by a hemp grower registered with  the Minnesota Crop Improvement Association’s seed certification program.

Any volunteer hemp plants growing in subsequent years must be destroyed, unless the licensee renews their license and registers that grow location.  The licensee may not cultivate volunteer plants if they are prohibited from such activities by a Seed/Material Usage Agreement.

Do I need a seed permit to sell hemp seed in Minnesota?

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. 

Can I breed a new variety of hemp for Minnesota?

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.

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Grain Licensing

Do I need a grain buyer’s license to buy hemp grain? 

No, hemp is not classified as a grain in the State of Minnesota at this time.

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Marketing

In addition to these FAQs, also refer to the 2017 MDA Hemp Pilot Program Report.

Can I sell grain or fiber to other states?

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.

Sale of raw or viable hemp to North Dakota must be approved prior to shipment. Please contact the MDA Industrial Hemp Pilot Program to find out more information.

Can I sell seed to other states?

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.  Sale of raw or viable hemp to North Dakota must be approved prior to shipment. Please contact the MDA Industrial Hemp Pilot Program to find out more information.

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 license holder, to planting in the ground.

Are there any grants that I can get from MDA?

The Industrial Hemp Pilot Program does not provide grants nor do we facilitate granting opportunities. However, the 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 the 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.

How much can I sell my hemp for?

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.

What is the cost per acre?

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).

Who will buy my hemp if I grow it?

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 3 years, and processing facilities are limited. 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.

Can I export hemp product to other countries?

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.

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Food Safety

What food products can I make from hemp?

You can make food products from the hemp seed or grain. Please contact the MDA’s Food and Feed Safety Division at 651-201-6027 to find out more about legal hemp food products. 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. Please see the FDA's guidelines on this subject or contact the MDA’s Food and Feed Safety Division for more information.

Can I produce CBD oil/extract from hemp plants?

You can produce oil or extract from hemp plants under your hemp pilot license, 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.  Please see the FDA's guidelines on this subject or contact the MDA’s Food and Feed Safety Division (add link) for more information.

Do I need a permit for extraction?

You need a basic MDA hemp pilot program license if you are processing hemp materials in any way. Please visit the hemp program application webpage for instructions on how to apply.

Do I need a food manufacturer's license?

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.

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Feed

Can I feed hemp to my livestock? 

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 (add link) for more information.

Can I make pet food with hemp? 

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.

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