May 13, 2021

Know before you grow: Industrial hemp advice for 2020

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana farmers are in the early stages of learning to grow industrial hemp.

Extensive rules and regulations make the process tricky to navigate.

Justin Swanson, president of Midwest Hemp Council, shared advice for growers and handlers during a webinar.

1. Work backwards. "The general advice for 2020 is kind of like any business model — work backwards and figure out who is going to buy your product," Swanson said. "Are you taking it to processing? Does the buyer have specifications they're looking for? Is it for CBD? If so, what's the least amount of CBD content they will take? "All of this stuff is really good to know before you even think about putting it in the ground. "That being said, our rules allow for research permits and licenses. If you can't answer these questions, but just want to get a year of growing under your belt to learn, team up with a researcher."

2. Create a contract. "Make sure you spend time and money memorializing your business deals with a legally binding contract," Swanson said. "It's so much better and cleaner for everybody involved."

3. Check your genetics. "Properly vet your genetics to make sure they grow well in Indiana's climate, soil and light cycle," Swanson advised. "Just because it grows well in Oregon or Colorado does not mean it's going to be a good strand for Indiana's soil and light cycle."

4. Have a plan. "Develop relationships with labs to create and execute a THC monitoring plan," Swanson said. "This is going to allow you to actually take your crop to harvest and also signal if you may need to harvest earlier than you thought in order to stay compliant."

5. Stay secure. "Take security operations seriously," Swanson said. "I had a number of clients last year, their (plots) were vandalized or stolen from." Use security cameras and avoid posting details about plant locations on social media.

6. Read the fine print. "Understand your legal obligations as a hemp grower or handler," Swanson said. "It's better for the industry and it makes the seed commissioner's life a little easier."

Learn more about industrial hemp at

Did You Know?

1. Marijuana production is not legal in the state of Indiana.

2. If you are growing unlicensed hemp, you are a marijuana producer.

3. Indiana’s Hemp Plan will be submitted to the U.S. Department of Agriculture prior to the end of the year.

4. In 60 days, a response is given from the USDA to determine if the program is in compliance.

5. At this point, administrative rules have been created to facilitate legal hemp production and will include licensing, background checks, recording of sites with proper GPS formatting, minimum acreage or square footage and compliancy THC testing of plants.

6. A license to grow hemp is required, and hemp must test below 0.3% THC. In the absence of a license, any cannabis production regardless of THC level is considered marijuana.

7. For 2020, a license must have a research project tied to hemp production.

8. Hemp growers will need to register with their local Farm Service Agency.