2022 marks the first year in which Idaho farmers can legally grow industrial hemp on their property for commercial purposes, and the state is one of the very last to legalize hemp cultivation.  Idaho has seen some of the strictest cannabis laws in the country for decades and was one of the very last to allow its residents to even purchase and possess hemp-derived products, including non-psychoactive products like CBD oil.

While this new development is certainly exciting for Idaho residents and farmers, those growing hemp have been told to keep their expectations low this first year, since never before has Idaho land been tested for hemp cultivation.  Besides that, although industrial hemp is famously easy to grow, being lenient about all kinds of conditions and resistant to many diseases, Idaho’s farmers are inexperienced with the plant, with many learning as they go.

Still, lawmakers and hemp industry experts all over the nation have been cheering Idaho farmers on since they hold the key to a potentially successful hemp industry within their own state, which could provide a nice boost to Idaho’s economy and benefit the state as a whole.  The hemp market is worth billions upon billions of dollars, and Idaho has a lot to gain from burgeoning hemp cultivation.

IND Hemp, a hemp processing company located in Montana, has been closely working with Idaho hemp farmers to guide them toward success.  On February 4th, 2022, chief operating officer and co-founder of IND Hemp Morgan Tweet met with new hemp farmers in Idaho as part of an orientation into the industry, which took place in Buhl.  She encouraged the over 100 farmers and processors on their commitment to cultivating the plant in their home state and urged them to remain dedicated over the next few years to support the state’s industry.  She also reminded them that hemp cultivation is “a marathon, not a sprint,” meaning that it can take a while for farmers to really get acquainted with the unique demands of the plant and have consistently successful yields.  She has agreed to counsel farmers to help guide them through the process of getting started, and IND Hemp is looking to build contracts with Idaho growers so that the two industries can support one another and give Idaho’s hemp industry a much-needed boost.

A New Hemp Frontier

Only in November of 2021 did the Idaho State Department of Agriculture begin accepting applications for hemp cultivation within its state, which means that this marks the first growing season for those whose applications were approved.  The ISDA has made it clear that farmers must follow state and federal law, which means that the hemp plants must contain a maximum of 0.3% delta 9 THC to be sold legally – about the amount that naturally occurs in the plant material anyway.  This is to make sure that the hemp being cultivated and sold remains non-psychoactive.

These changes come with the passing of House Bill 126, which was formally signed by Governor Brad Little to finally legalize the hemp trade at large within the state, beginning with the processing and production of industrial hemp and various hemp product forms.  The law determines that farmers must obtain an official license from the ISDA to be legally allowed to grow hemp on their land.  Individuals may transport industrial hemp on behalf of a licensed person. 

Off to a Slow Start

Casey Monn, the ISDA bureau chief for hemp, said that the state only received 22 official applications from farmers since the law first changed.  That’s after 81 applications were officially started, with a small percentage actually getting completed.  Of those 22 applications, 12 are farmers and 10 are handlers or processors. 

Farmers who have been approved make up a combined total of 270 acres of Idaho farmland.  Compare that to the 1 million acres devoted to wheat cultivation in the state, or the 350,000 acres for corn, and you can see why Idaho does not expect anything remarkable from this year’s hemp yield.  It’s also worth noting that this is a mere fraction of the cultivation that goes on in many other states where hemp cultivation has been legal for some time.

Many farmers have shared their apprehension about investing in hemp cultivation because of how new the industry is.  They are largely waiting to see how other farmers do before handing in their own applications.  Should these farmers make considerable profit off of their crops, it’s safe to assume that other farmers will be eager to follow in their footsteps.

Still, trailblazers in the Idaho hemp industry are very supportive of the individual farmers who are leading the way.  Hempitecture, an Idaho-based company that uses industrial hemp for building materials rather than CBD products, believes that industrial hemp farming in Idaho can benefit a multitude of industries besides natural health.  Industrial hemp was a commodity in the early days of our country primarily because it could be used to make rope, paper, and other valuable materials.

It will be interesting to see what comes of this first hemp season in Idaho, and even more interesting to see how many more farmers join in on next year’s harvest.  For the time being, it’s good to see the state catch up with the rest of the country when it comes to hemp laws affecting state residents in all kinds of ways – from the ability to profit off of industrial hemp crops to the ability to experience the effects of CBD itself.

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