Hemp farmers across Tennessee are unfortunately working to destroy hemp crop that tested over the new federal THC limit.
In 2021, the USDA ruled that all legal hemp must have a total Delta-9 THC level of 0.3 percent or below. The new rules apply to numerous other compounds in the plant. And according to the Department of Agriculture, 42 percent of crops are being found non-compliant with the requirement.
Seth Fuller, co-owner of Nashland Farms recently stated, "This crop, on the second attempt by the TDA (Tennessee Department of Agriculture), has come back hot. The last couple months have proven to be stressful and destructive for the hemp industry. It's a very sad day at Nashland Farms. There are a lot of people who helped maintain this crop to help get it to its potential and there are a lot of people waiting to get this crop to help with ailments and everybody is kind of losing in this case. So, we're trying to create a win and educate the general public and try to destigmatize hemp as a whole."
TDA Controlling THC Levels in Tennessee
The department is trying to help hemp farmers in any way they can. There's an option to try to remediate the crop by grinding it up and having it tested again. However, there's no guarantee the crop can enter the marketplace.
"There's a lot of variables that no one can control with any part of agriculture, but especially hemp that affects the levels of THC," stated Denise Woods, Hemp Program Coordinator for TDA.
The new ruling states any plant with total THC levels over 0.3 percent is considered marijuana by the federal government, even with no detectable Delta-9 THC.
"When the USDA said in their final rule that it's 0.3 THC, that's what we have to go by," Woods added.
Setback for Hemp Farmers
In just under three years, hemp farmers dropped from 4,000 statewide to just over 1,000. Woods stated growers gave up because they weren't committed to trying to keep their crop under 0.3 percent THC.
Fuller said he won't be discouraged by this setback. They plan to use the strains that were successful in meeting the federal requirements as a majority of their crop.
Policymakers in some states have tried to help farmers find new markets for hemp. Colorado allows hemp to be added to food, for instance. Montana allows hemp to be added to animal feed. Illinois lets licensed marijuana businesses buy or process certain hemp products.