Hemp genetics, inputs to become more accessible after Farm Bill implementation

(Third in a five-part series examining the shortage of feminized hempseeds and clones and its effects on the hemp industry. To read the previous installment, click here.)

When the 2018 Farm Bill passed in December, it opened up myriad new opportunities for hemp professionals, including better access to genetics.

But supply bottlenecks at the state level are sticking many farmers with varieties that have been certified within their state.

And for states that have recently passed laws authorizing hemp production, approved varieties may be limited to the same genetics that are allowed in more established hemp states.

The removal of hemp from the U.S. Controlled Substances Act, which took oversight away from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), should help with the ability to access new genetics, hemp experts say.

And with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) now regulating hempseed and genetics as it does other agricultural crops, forthcoming rules for the import and export of hemp genetics will also boost business for U.S. hemp plant breeders looking to make their varieties viable internationally.

Hemp Industry Daily asked hemp production experts for their feedback on how sourcing plant inputs has been transformed by the changing regulations.

How has the landscape changed for sourcing hemp seeds and clones? What have been the differences since the 2018 Farm Bill passed and hempseed and genetics no longer require licenses from the DEA for importing?

Eric Mathur, chief science officer, Tilt Holdings, Canada 

Access to non-DEA regulated hemp and cannabis varietals dramatically increases the genetic diversity available to breeders. This will have a dramatic and profound positive impact on the industry.

As more unique germplasm becomes available, breeders will (select for) disease resistance, drought tolerance and auto-flowering, along with high-yielding cannabinoids and agronomic traits combined into stable high-performance lines, which will move the industry to the next level.

Alex Seleznov, CEO, Advanced Extraction, Colorado

The landscape has allowed local U.S. production of clones and seed to flourish.

As in all industries, the best will rise to the top, and niche providers will continue to have a market. But expect a handful of producers to be producing the vast majority of inputs in five to seven years.

I believe there will continue to be a market for imported seed as well, particularly as relates to fiber and seed production.

Chris Boucher, CEO, Farmtiva, California

In California, the legal seeds and clones fall under the Certified Registered or Approved section.

The clone program from the California Department of Food and Agriculture has been slow to approve, especially any imports into the state, which require a quarantine.

Our seed supply is all approved, meaning it’s been approved by another state. There is no reference by the state (of California) to direct farmers to seeds or clones – only web search and word of mouth so far.

There are really no hemp farming groups I have seen that are operating on a professional level.

The DEA is out of business with hemp – same with the Department of Justice (DOJ). They have no authority to claim hemp is marijuana anymore. It’s the best thing that has ever happened, from my viewpoint.

Cory Sharp, CEO, HempLogic, Washington state

Everyone wants to be into hemp, and there are scams on top of scams. Farmers are paying $250,000 just for the opportunity – and they took their money and ghosted.

Seed sales are nuts right now with people buying (substandard product). They have no idea what they are buying.

Tim Gordon, CEO, Functional Remedies, Colorado

This is only the beginning. Be on the lookout for the USDA to mandate certified seed.

As far as importing, you still need all the proper tags and phytosanitary information from any supplier.

The change is going to be huge.

Steven Turetsky, managing director, Shi Farms, Colorado

It hasn’t changed too much on the seed side.

States are doing a good job requiring seed labeling, and most legitimate seed sellers are self-regulating things like germination testing and feminization-rate testing.

Those are two tests that people that are wanting to buy feminized seed should be asking for – I’m not taking a Certificate of Analysis (COA) and calling it good.

You want to look at a couple of those other factors. Self-regulation from businesses utilizing best practices is something to look for, but a lot of regulations haven’t necessarily come from the agriculture department. Ag departments (only) require that you get the variety approved by their department.

Let’s say, for example, if we have a cooperative in Oklahoma that is planting several varieties, we have to go to the state and get the varieties approved before we could plant (those varieties) there.

That process basically entails showing them the COA, showing them our other tests like feminization and germination, and getting the state to sign off that these are legitimate, they can grow properly, and they’re comfortable importing them, essentially.

The Certificate of Analysis verifies levels of CBD. And that’s pretty much the only (certificate available) for feminized seed, other than a COA for feminization or germination rates.

Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

(Tomorrow: Find out which genetics – and plant inputs – these hemp production experts say work best for CBD production.)

Laura Drotleff can be reached at [email protected]

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