What is the Industrial Hemp Program?

On December 12, Congress passed the 2018 Agriculture and Nutrition Act, better known as the Farm Bill. The important legislation amends the classification of hemp as a Schedule I narcotic. This legislation defines hemp as all parts of the plant less than 0.3% THC, including derivatives, extracts, and cannabinoids. Hemp is now deemed an agricultural commodity and is no longer classified as a controlled substance. It is important for the public to understand that hemp is not legal to grow or process in Alabama until a plan is developed and approved by the United States Secretary of Agriculture. USDA will require participating states to include information on applicants, testing procedures, inspection of growing/processing facilities and disposal procedures. The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) will work in consultation with the Governor’s office, the Attorney General’s office and law enforcement agencies to create a plan of action regarding statewide regulation. Upon approval from USDA, ADAI will administer permits for growing and processing. “I am happy that hemp production was addressed at the federal level,” said Commissioner Rick Pate. “In 2016 we were tasked with administering the Alabama Industrial Hemp Research Program Act by the state legislature. The process has been complicated, but with the Farm Bill amendment we can move forward with a more unified plan.” The previously approved Alabama Industrial Hemp Research Program Act rules will be reviewed and amended to comply with the requirements of the new Federal legislation.

Status of Program

Hemp program acceptance letters were sent out by email on Wednesday, March 13, 2019 to grower and processor applicants. If your application was accepted into the Alabama Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program, please read the email and all attachments carefully, and follow the directions provided.

In 2016, the Alabama Legislature passed the Alabama Industrial Hemp Research Program Act, Section 2-8-380 Code of Alabama 1975, tasking the department with the development of a licensing and inspection program for the production of industrial hemp.  It is important for the public to understand that hemp is not legal to grow or process in Alabama without a permit.

ADAI will accept applications until February 22, 2019.

The Department is reminding prospective applicants that the pilot program will be administered under the 2014 Farm Bill provision for industrial hemp. The 2018 Farm Bill declassifies hemp as a Schedule 1 drug. It is now deemed an agricultural commodity and is no longer classified as a controlled substance.  The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will begin drafting procedural rules for industrial hemp once the partial federal government shutdown ends.  The Department will work in consultation with the Governor’s office, the Attorney General’s office, and law enforcement agencies to create a plan of action for the provisions of industrial hemp under the 2018 Farm Bill during this year. 


The applications are designed to provide sufficient instructions for completion by any individual who would be prepared to participate in the industrial hemp research pilot program. The applications include a broad understanding of the program, but applicants should read the  regulations for complete details.  The regulations can be found under “Resources” on the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) website industrial hemp program page.

Please make sure to fully review all application instructions and regulations prior to contacting hemp staff with questions.  All applicants for grower and processor permits, including university researchers, should fully understand the administrative regulations.

ADAI is not in the position to offer direct consultation on completing a license application or to educate individuals about the production of industrial hemp.

All costs associated with the research are the responsibility of the license holder, including both profits and loss. There are no sources of funding from ADAI to cover any aspect of research projects. Potential applicants should understand that at the present time it is likely that they may suffer a loss on the industrial hemp crop. Limited production knowledge combined with an uncertain federal regulatory environment and unstable pricing creates significant risk for the participant. The focus of this program is the collection of research data and learning through experience.

Applicants should understand that there is an inherent risk associated with participation in a research program focusing on a new crop. The program participant bears sole responsibility for financial or other losses that may result from participation in ADAI’s industrial hemp research pilot program.  ADAI is not responsible for reimbursing or compensating program participants for any loss resulting from their involvement with ADAI’s program, and program participants waive any right to seek compensation for the value of such losses.


Situation:  The 2018 Farm Bill passed by Congress in December defined industrial hemp as an agricultural commodity and removed it from the controlled substance list.  Producers across the country may now legally farm industrial hemp as part of an approved industrial hemp regulatory program.  Since the Farm Bill passed, the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI), Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES), and the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station (AAES) have been inundated with questions from across the state.

1) When can I start planting industrial hemp?

The Farm Bill approved IH production across the states, and removed industrial hemp from the controlled substance list. Until USDA develops regulations relative to the 2018 Farm Bill, ADAI will be administering the State Industrial Hemp Program under the 2014 Farm Bill and the 2016 Alabama Industrial Hemp Research Program Act, Section 2-8-380 Code of Alabama 1975. ADAI will be accepting applications for the 2020 growing season in October, 2019.

2) How long will it be before the rules and regulations are in place that will allow us to plant under the 2018 Farm Bill?

The USDA must write and publish the rules and regulations. The overall process could take as long a year before all of the appropriate rules and regulations are in place and a permitting process is approved.

Federal time line: Rules and regulations will first be developed followed by a 30 to 60-day comment period, revision; after which, there will be a 45-day adoption period.

State time line begins after the USDA rules are developed: Rules, regulations, and permit development by a 35-day comment period, revision, Agriculture Board vote, and 45-day adoption period.

3) If the process moves faster than anticipated, how likely would it be to plant an industrial hemp field under the 2018 Farm bill in 2019?

This will likely not happen for 2019. Since Alabama’s planting season is in the spring, the comment and adoption periods alone will push the timeline into the summer. When the time to develop the rules, regulations, and permits is added, it is most likely that the timeline will extend through the fall.

4) I have read that other states have received approval from the USDA for their producers to plant industrial hemp as an unregulated crop in 2019. Why doesn’t Alabama have the same approval?

To date, no other states have received USDA approval to plant industrial hemp as an unregulated crop in 2019. While some states may have submitted their industrial hemp programs to USDA, all state industrial hemp programs are operating under the 2014 Farm Bill for pilot research programs. Even under the 2018 Farm Bill, the growing of industrial hemp in the Unites States will be regulated under either USDA or State authority.

5) When can I farm industrial hemp just as I would cotton, corn, peanuts, or soybeans?

A hemp grower or processor license and annual registration will continue to be required under either the 2014 or 2018 Farm Bill. Planting areas will be identified on your application to facilitate required monitoring and sampling of the crop. Even though the 2018 Farm Bill redefined hemp as an agricultural commodity, production fields will have to be sampled before harvest to ensure that the THC level is below 0.3%.

6) What is the cost of participating in the Alabama industrial hemp pilot research program in 2019?

There is an initial, non-refundable application fee of $200 that must accompany the completed application. It approved, there is a $1000 license fee per growing area. Those who wish to participate in the Alabama Industrial Hemp Program must reapply every year during the during the designated sign-up period.

7) If I have more than one growing or processing area, do I need to submit an application for each?

No. You may submit a single application for every growing or processing area, but be sure to list the GPS coordinates and other requested information for each site. You will, however, be required to submit a participation fee of $1000 per growing or processing area.

8) How do I amend information on my application?

You may change anything prior to obtaining your hemp grower or processor license. Simply send back a copy of the page or pages of your application with the changes noted (preferred). If you do not have a copy of your application, you may send a letter listing desired changes in bullet form.

There will be a $1000 change fee for any site changes made after you receive your license agreement.

9) I am submitting an application as a member of a partnership. Must I submit all the requested information on each partner?

No. We require only one authorized contact person to complete the application. If we need additional information on partners at a later date, the Alabama Industrial Hemp Program staff will request it at that time.

10) How do I purchase industrial hemp seed for planting?

When we receive your participation fee and licensing agreement, we will send you a seed acquisition form. You will provide information on your seed/seedling source at that time. We will require certification that the seed source is part of a state hemp program, and certification that material grown from the seeds purchased will have no more than 0.3% THC by weight. That information may be sent to us by you or directly from your seed source.

We also ask for a copy of your invoice or other documents showing the source, the amount of seed/number of seedlings purchased, and the scheduled time of delivery to your address. You are not required to send the seed/seedlings to ADAI. We will inventory the seed sold for the Alabama Hemp Research Pilot Program using the documents that you provide, as well as spot check visits by an ADAI Plant Protection inspector.

11) What happens to my industrial hemp crop if the analysis reveals that it has >0.3% THC?

The field will be destroyed.

12) Does industrial hemp have crop insurance, price support, and other programs similar to the traditional agronomic crops grown in Alabama?

Not at this time. The earliest that these programs will be available is after USDA develops the final rules and regulations required by the 2018 Farm Bill.

13) Is there economic feasibility information available from AU, ACES, or the AAES on producing IH?

No. Because of the historical moratorium on hemp research, there are no current feasibility studies for IH production in Alabama. Many states have published pilot research and production information which can be found on the internet. Some examples include:
U.S. Congressional Report Over view: 


Updated on May 12, 2019

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