Missouri farmers decry restrictive hemp acreage caps

Missouri farmers are pushing back at hemp limits even before the state’s new law takes effect.

More than two dozen farmers attended a listening session held by the state Department of Agriculture this week, complaining that Missouri’s new hemp pilot program, signed into law just last month, is too restrictive, the News Tribune reported.

The law limits the crop to 2,000 acres statewide, and each farmer can grow no more than 40 acres of hemp.

“That’s a pittance,” Derek Bryant, a farmer from Fayette, told the Jefferson City newspaper.

The state’s hemp law takes effect Aug. 28, but the Department of Agriculture is still working on the rules and fees for growing and processing hemp.

Missouri explicitly authorizes hemp production from wild cannabis, the first hemp state to do so, but specific regulations for doing that are still being debated.

Paul Bailey, director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture Plant Industries Division, said the department will likely take six to eight months to finalize rules governing the program. He acknowledged it may not be possible for farmers to grow hemp during the 2019 growing season.

Hyatt Bangert, founder of the St. Louis-based trade group the Midwest Industrial Hemp Association, said the department should start encouraging participation now, with rules to be refined over time.

“The whole regulation is a bit contradictory in that regard when you have a pilot program that has restrictions like that,” he told the News Tribune. “You want to get as many participants as possible.”