Plant Industries

Serving the citizens of Arkansas and the agricultural and business communities by providing information and unbiased enforcement of laws and regulations set by the Arkansas State Plant Board

Arkansas Hemp Program Overview

Program Overview:

The Arkansas Department of Agriculture’s Hemp Program was established to license Hemp Growers and Hemp Processor/Handlers for Arkansas residents, as authorized by state and federal laws.  Licensed Hemp Growers are permitted to legally produce or grow hemp crops, while Licensed Hemp Processor/Handlers are permitted to accept and possess hemp crops to be processed into “publicly marketable hemp products,” such as seed oil or CBD oil. 

No person shall grow, handle, broker, market, or process hemp in Arkansas without first obtaining the appropriate license issued by the Arkansas Department of Agriculture’s Hemp Program.  Program licensees have a responsibility to verify hemp license certificates prior to any sell or transfer of hemp material.  Individuals or businesses who would like to be considered for a license to grow, handle, process, store, or market hemp must submit the appropriate application to the Department’s Hemp Program.  For more information about applying for a license, please visit the Applications for Hemp Licensing webpage.

The Hemp Program first issued licenses to Growers and Processor/Handlers in 2019, which was the first season of legal hemp production in Arkansas in over eight decades!  This agricultural industry is still very new to the state of Arkansas, and there is still much to learn and research about this new crop.  Due to the newer nature of this industry, please be mindful that there are many uncertainties associated with hemp production, including financial loss. 

Supply chains are still developing, hemp varieties are unpredictable, and many regulatory issues remain unsolved at the federal level.  Market options for fiber and grain are extremely limited, and prices of floral material have drastically declined. 

The Department asks farmers/producers to really consider the financial risk before entering the industrial hemp industry.  “Don’t plant more than you can afford to lose!”

Program Updates for 2022 Season:

The hemp industry is still in its infancy and is moving forward in an ever-changing legal and regulatory landscape.  The Department will provide annual updates to the Program here, detailing any program changes in a shortlist format:

  • During the 2021 Regular Session, the Arkansas Legislature established and passed into state law the AR Hemp Production Act of 2021, which further aligns the Department’s Hemp Program with the USDA’s Final Rule and the federal 2018 Farm Bill authorities.
  • On December 9th, 2021, the Department received word from the USDA-AMS U.S. Hemp Production Program that Arkansas’s Hemp Program received federal approval under the 2018 Farm Bill authority to continue regulating hemp production in Arkansas.
  • For the 2022 season the Program will no longer require research plans or Letters of Intent to be submitted with each application.
  • For the 2022 season, the Department is no longer permitted to resample and retest intact or hanging plants via Post-Harvest procedures.  Any noncompliant lot requested for Post-Harvest resampling and retesting procedures must be properly remediated.  (Refer to the Program’s 2022 Sampling, Testing, Remediation & Disposal Guidelines, posted on the License Holders—Forms & Deadlines webpage)
  • The Program may collect more representative sample cuttings from a lot, depending on the lot’s size.  (Refer to the Program’s 2022 Sampling, Testing, Remediation & Disposal Guidelines, posted on the License Holders—Forms & Deadlines webpage)
  • The Program may issue license holders under a Corrective Action Plan (CAP) for any negligent violation of program rules/laws.
  • The Program anticipates going into rulemaking procedures sometime in 2022 to align the Program’s rules with the 2018 Farm Bill and the AR Hemp Production Act of 2021.

HEMP PROGRAM BACKGROUND

The first year of legal hemp production in Arkansas occurred in 2019 after almost eight decades of being associated with its illicit cannabis cousin, marijuana.  From 2019 to 2021, Arkansas’s Hemp Program operated as a research pilot program permitted under the federal 2014 Farm Bill authority and the Arkansas Industrial Hemp Production Act of 2017.  The Arkansas Industrial Hemp Act of 2017 was signed into state law in August of 2017.  In June 2018, the Arkansas State Plant Board approved the “Arkansas Industrial Hemp Research Program Rules,” and the first application for a hemp license was received by the Department in October 2018. 

The Hemp Research Licensing Program effectively allowed licensed growers to conduct research operations and generate industry data in order to assess the agricultural and economic potential of industrial hemp production in Arkansas.  2021 was the final season for the AR Hemp Research Licensing Program, meaning that licensees are no longer required to conduct research plan operations in order to obtain a license.

On December 20, 2018, the 2018 Farm Bill (P.L. 115-334) was signed into federal law, effectively removing ‘hemp’ from the federal controlled substances list.  Per the 2018 Farm Bill and associated Interim Final Rule and Final Rule from the USDA, the Department was required to submit a state hemp production plan to the USDA-AMS U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program for federal approval to continue regulating hemp production in the state of Arkansas before January 1st, 2022. 

The Department’s Hemp Research Licensing Program already fairly aligned with federal hemp rules/laws, which meant that no drastic changes to the way the Program was already being implemented was necessary for approval by the USDA under a more commercialized hemp program.   

Total number of Hemp Licenses issued each season under the AR Hemp Research Licensing Program:

2019 Season: 125 Growers, 31 Processor/Handlers

2020 Season: 121 Growers, 38 Processor/Handlers

2021 Season: 49 Growers, 22 Processor/Handlers

I Want to Grow Hemp, Where Do I Start?

  • Determine what type of hemp you want to grow; what fits your farm operations? Grain, Fiber, or Floral Material for CBD extraction
  • Budget your farming operations accordingly, considering Program Fees, as well as general operational costs associated with growing or processing/handling hemp.
  • Review and read the Arkansas Department of Agriculture’s Hemp Program webpages to learn rules and laws associated with hemp production.
  • Apply for and obtain a Hemp License from the Department.
  • Find a licensed buyer/processor for your intended harvest.  As a starting point, you can find a list of licensed Processor/Handlers on the Hemp Program’s “Hemp Home” webpage.  Harvested hemp materials can only be sold to entities holding a hemp license with either: 1) a state’s department of agriculture, or 2) the USDA.
  • Locate and obtain legal industrial hemp seeds or transplants.  The Hemp Program publishes an annual “Summary of Varieties List” detailing the classification and THC% of each variety produced in Arkansas’s Hemp Program.  Seed companies must be licensed to deal seed into Arkansas.  Visit the Department’s Seed Section website for more information about the Arkansas Seed Dealer/Labeler License. 
  • Research proper crop production techniques before planting the crop.
  • Proceed with caution!  There are no guarantees being involved with the Department’s Hemp Program.  

Reviewed all Hemp Program webpages and still have a question for the Program?

E-mail your hemp-related question(s) to industrialhemp@agriculture.arkansas.gov

Supporting, Protecting, and Growing Arkansas Agriculture and Forestry
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