Hemp acreage jumps 500% in 2019, a sign of legalization’s impact

American farmers are signing up to grow hemp in eye-popping numbers in this first growing season after the plant was federally legalized, with licensed acres up more than 554% from last year, according to advocacy group Vote Hemp.

The Washington, DC-based lobbying advocacy group released its annual U.S. Hemp Crop Report on Thursday.

The group reports 511,442 acres licensed in hemp this year, up from 78,176 acres last year. The figure includes outdoor, indoor and greenhouse production, with indoor square footage converted to acreage.

Because federal agriculture officials don’t yet track hemp acreage, Vote Hemp compiles its annual report by checking with each state. The group reports:
  • 46 states have laws allowing hemp production.
  • 34 states have licensed hemp cultivation.

The hemp expansion comes after the 2018 Farm Bill lifted limits on hemp production from research and academic production to any commercial use.

By comparison, the United States had roughly 91.7 million acres planted with corn in July, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In Canada, where hemp production has been legal since 1998, farmers grew 77,800 acres of hemp in 2018, the most recent figures available, according to Health Canada.

Not all U.S. states track how many licensed hemp acres end up being planted with hemp, nor how many acres end up being harvested, making it difficult to estimate total U.S. hemp production.

Also, some states issue hemp licenses on a rolling basis, meaning that national licensed acreage changes month to month.