Everything You Need to Know About Hemp Farming in California

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In California alone, CBD worth about $730 million was sold in 2019, making it the leading cannabidiol market in that year. It beat other states like New York and Florida by huge margins which had 215 million and 290 million in sales, respectively.

While California lags behind many other states when it comes to hemp cultivation, the demand for hemp products in this state can’t be ignored. In 2018, the Senate Bill No.1409 was passed, allowing the commercial hemp cultivation. However, to become eligible to grow hemp, you had to register with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and county commissioners. 

If you’re thinking of hemp farming in California, read this first:

Everything You Need to Know About Hemp Farming in California

Growing Hemp in California: Know the Difference Between Hemp and Cannabis

First off, you need to know the key differences between hemp and cannabis and how the state of California defines them.

According to the state, hemp is any cannabis variety that contains THC concentration of 0.3% and less. This means it can’t make you high. On the other hand, cannabis has more than 0.3% THC concentration, meaning they come with psychoactive effects, usually between 15-40%.

Requirements for Hemp Farmers in California

Compared to other states, California has less stringent restrictions on hemp licensing for farmers. These requirements include:

  • An annual registration fee of $900
  • Information about the farmland, including its location and business model
  • Information about the type of hemp variety that you intend to grow

You can join the hemp market as a hemp seed cultivator or as a seed breeder. If you choose to grow hemp commercially, there is a specific application form for growers. For seed production or development, you should fill out the breeders’ application. If you want to do both, complete both applications.

Regulations Controlling Hemp Growing Hemp in California

Unlike cannabis that’s regulated by 280E regulation, hemp is no longer considered as an illegal substance in California. With the implementation of the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, hemp was delisted from the Controlled Substance Schedule 1 list. This meant that it was free from strict tax and regulations of the Controlled Substance Act of 1970.

Additionally, the signing and approval of Senate Bill 1409 in September 2018 allowed California hemp farmers to cultivate and produce industrial hemp. Before this Bill became law, only the hemp research programs under the Agricultural Act of 2014 were allowed to grow hemp.

The 2018 Farm Bill also required California state (like all other states) to develop and submit their hemp production plans to the Department of Agriculture. This will help put hemp production in every state on track.

The SB-153 Bill: Revamping California Hemp Laws

In 2019, Governor Gavin Newson signed the SB-153 Bill which made significant changes to hemp cultivation in California, including:

  • The Bill narrows the scope to who is considered an Established Agricultural Research Institution (EARI) so that it’s consistent with the federal definitions.
  • The Bill mandates the registration of all EARIs and requires them to submit their official “research plans” to their local agricultural commissioner for approval.
  • The Bill mandates the registration of all commercial and non-commercial hemp growers who don’t qualify as an EARI.
  • The Bill clarifies that hemp should be grown in licensed premises only – just like all cannabis varieties.
  • The Bill creates enforcement provisions, fines, and penalties in case of false information during the hemp license application.

All hemp farms in California are required to adjust how they operate in compliance with the SB-153 Bill.

How to Grow Hemp in California

While the demand for cannabis is high in California, the industry is still highly competitive and strictly controlled. Therefore, gaining entry can be quite challenging and expensive, especially with the zonal restrictions and licensing limits. However, industrial hemp presents a better alternative for growers in California to gain entry into the cannabis market without strict entry regulations.

Hemp plant thrives well in the California soil which highly organic and well-drained. Hemp seeds should be planted directly in the ground, rather than in nurseries for the best result. The hemp plant is resistant to pests and diseases and grows fast, minimizing the cultivation costs.

It’s estimated that hemp has a profit range of $130-$730 per acre in California on farmlands of at least 50 acres.

The CFAC (California Food and Agriculture Code) only license growers and breeders to cultivate hemp types from the official seed cultivars list. This doesn’t apply to seed breeders developing innovative seed cultivars.

How to Sell Hemp in California

The California Farmer’s Market can help you market your hemp produce. But first, you have to be a certified producer of CDFA’s Certified Farmers’ Market (CFM) Program. You can also use a regulated cannabis retail store to sell your hemp products which is usually regulated by the Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC). Ensure you meet all the BCC cannabis industry regulations if you’re choosing this option.

Future of Hemp Farming in California

It’s estimated that at least 25,000 products can be manufactured from hemp, meaning that the demand for hemp in the state and country will keep growing. This is a golden opportunity for farmers in California who want to add industrial hemp to the list of crops grown in California.

With the chronic water problem crippling agriculture in California, hemp could be the best crop to grow. Being a hardy crop, this plant requires little water and maintenance as its naturally resistant to pests and diseases. Additionally, it takes only a few months to fully mature for harvest

A good way to get started in the Californian hemp market is to have all relevant information and regulations from USDA and CDFA. Moreover, you can speak to an expert to get in-depth details on entering the hemp market in this large state.

Grab the golden opportunity and start your journey to successful commercial hemp farming in California.

For more interesting blogs about hemp and its regulations in America, browse and subscribe to our updated hemp blog.

For more interesting blogs about hemp and its regulations in America, browse our updated hemp blog.
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