Gov. Kevin Stitt recently signed Senate Bill 868 into law after it was unanimously approved by the House and Senate.
Senate Bill 868 provides for the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry to develop and administer a program for the production of commercial hemp under the 2018 Farm Bill. Current state law, passed last year under the 2014 Farm Bill, allows for Oklahomans to participate in the Industrial Hemp Pilot Program, which requires growers to be licensed through a research institution. The new farm bill changed federal industrial hemp law and made changes to state law necessary as well.
There are eight colleges and universities participating in the current Agricultural Industrial Hemp Pilot Program-Langston University, Redlands Community College, Northern Oklahoma College-Tonkawa, Northwestern Oklahoma State University, Cameron University, Oklahoma Panhandle State University, Murray State College, Connors State College, and Western Oklahoma State College.
“The next step is for USDA to finalize federal rules under the 2018 Farm Bill,” said JanLee Rowlett, ODAFF legislative liaison. “When new federal rules are in place, we will then develop state rules. After state rules are developed, we are required to have our state plan approved by USDA. USDA has 60 days to respond after we submit the plan. This process will take time, but we want to get it right for Oklahoma producers.”
Rowlett anticipates USDA will finalize their rules later this year. State and federal rules should be in place to allow for planting of industrial hemp in the 2020 crop year.
“Producers should know planting for the 2019 crop year, which is happening from now through June, still falls under the existing Pilot Program state law, so growers still need to work with a research institution to grow hemp this year,” said Rowlett. “ODAFF will work diligently to develop a state plan and promulgate rules to be prepared to license growers directly for the 2020 growing season.”