Idaho on Course to Double Hemp Production

Farmers in Idaho are set to plant almost two times as much hemp this year as they did in 2023. Data from the state’s department of agriculture shows that last year, state farmers planted more than 1,200 acres of hemp. This is more than three times the hemp planted in 2022 when the state permitted farmers to begin cultivating the industrial crop.

As of May 31, 2024, the state’s department of agriculture had approved licenses to grow hemp on 2,440 acres.

Hemp farmers in the state still have a long way to go before they catch up with major crops such as hay, however. The latest data shows that farmers in Idaho grow more than a million acres of hay, about one million acres of wheat and roughly 500,000 acres of barley, among other crops.

Idaho is the latest state to launch a hemp program, with a majority of the crop being grown in the southern regions of the state. The production and processing of hemp was legalized and the bill signed into law in April 2021.

This was after the 2018 Farm Bill legalized the cultivation and processing of hemp commercially in the United States. Under the law, individuals are only allowed to cultivate and process industrial hemp if they acquire a license from the state’s agriculture department. Individuals are also allowed to transport the crop on behalf of parties with a valid growing license.

In 2022, some growers cultivated the crop for the CBD market. Last year, only one grower grew hemp for CBD. In 2024, no grower is cultivating hemp for the CBD market. This could be because in 2022, more than 9% of hemp acres grown in the state had to be destroyed because they surpassed the legal THC limit. All acres destroyed were full of varieties of CBD hemp.

Under federal law, the level of THC in industrial hemp shouldn’t be more than 0.3%. THC is one of the two primary compounds found in marijuana, the other being CBD. Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t induce a high when ingested.

Idaho’s hemp program is managed by Greg Blahato, who revealed that the state’s climate was favorable for different fiber varieties. Despite this, harvesting the crop proves to be challenging for growers. Challenges include the fact that Idaho has the strictest program in the country. Hemp in the state isn’t regulated by the grower but by the lot. Every cultivated hemp lot must undergo inspection at least once. The number of inspections depends on the number of times a grower harvests from their lot.

Growers with compliance issues usually go the remediation way, which involves inspectors inspecting their crop again.

Growers wishing to venture into this space are advised to educate themselves on different variables. The growing production of hemp in Idaho and other parts of the country could create a vibrant market for entities such as Astrotech Corp. (NASDAQ: ASTC) that focus on making a variety of testing equipment for medical and industrial use.

NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to Astrotech Corp. (NASDAQ: ASTC) are available in the company’s newsroom at https://cnw.fm/ASTC

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