Proposed regulations state that individuals who reside in Tennessee, and partnerships where at least one partner resides in Tennessee, are eligible to apply for a license to grow industrial hemp.
As proposed, a corporation or cooperative must have a head office or operate a branch office in Tennessee in order to apply for a license to grow industrial hemp.
The department is developing a licensing and inspection program that will be available to producers of all sizes. Aside from a minimum licensing fee required of all producers, additional licensing fees, as proposed, will be determined based on acreage grown. The success of small or large farm operations will be largely dependent on factors beyond the department's control, such as market demand and the access to in-state processing.
Yes, Public Chapter 916 enacted by the Tennessee General Assembly directs the department to issue licenses for the cultivation of industrial hemp, to develop rules and regulations and to set fees to defray the cost of implementing the program. See proposed regulations at this site for more information.
Proposed regulations currently set a deadline date of February 1 each year for applications to grow industrial hemp either for commercial or for research and development purposes. Licenses will be good for one year. The department expects to begin accepting applications in late 2014, in time for the 2015 growing season. See proposed regulations at this site for an example of information that will be required for applications.
Seed that currently may exist in Tennessee may be variable and have unknown THC levels and none is currently certified. Public Chapter 916 requires that industrial hemp be grown from seed certified by an authorized certifying agency. While the department's regulatory role with industrial hemp is limited to registration of growers and inspection of crops, we will work with and help identify certifying agencies that can provide certified seed as best we can. The most likely route for developing a source of certified seed in Tennessee will be work with some of our institutions of higher education to research and develop suitable varieties, but this process could take several years. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the producer to source and to ensure that only certified seed is used.
As currently proposed, there is not a minimum or maximum acreage requirement; however, Public Chapter 916 specifies that any person who cultivates an industrial hemp crop of any size shall obtain a license from the department of agriculture.
While there may be demand for and processing facilities for industrial hemp in other countries, currently, there is not a viable commercial market in the U.S. or Tennessee. Developing a market is a matter supply and demand, and will require substantial private investment over time. In some circumstances, individuals may be planning on cultivating the crop for their own seed, oil or fiber production and processing.
There has not been any research or development of industrial hemp in the U.S. in decades. Until our education and research institutions are able to study and recommend best practices, as authorized by the new Farm Bill, currently there is not much information available about how to grow and harvest hemp in Tennessee. Canada has been researching industrial hemp cultivation since the early 1990s and research institutions there are most likely the best source for up-to-date information.