Hemp Production Program Questions and Answers

General QuestionsPlan ManagementGrower LicensingSampling and TestingSupport

General Questions

What is Hemp?

Cannabis sativa L. and “any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers,” with no more than a 0.3 percent concentration of THC.

Is hemp the same as medical or recreational marijuana?

No. While hemp and medical marijuana come from the same genus plant and contain many of the same chemical compounds, the concentration of compounds in the two plant species can be vastly different. The legal difference is the amount of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) the plant contains.  If the cannabis plant contains more than 0.3% THC it is considered marijuana.

You cannot produce medical or recreational marijuana with a hemp license.

Why did the US Department of Agriculture build a marketing program for the commercial production of hemp in the United States?

The 2018 Farm Bill (the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018) directed USDA to develop a regulatory program for the oversight of hemp. The Bill includes provisions for the USDA to approve plans submitted by States and Indian Tribes for the domestic production of hemp. It also establishes a federal plan managed directly by the USDA for producers in States or territories of Indian tribes that do not have their own USDA-approved plan and the production of hemp is legal.

Is the Final Rule published?

Yes, the Final Rule (pdf) was published in March 2021. The Final Rule lays out the requirements for State and Tribal Hemp Production plans and for producers under the USDA managed plan.

Plan Management

What is a State or Tribe Hemp Production Plan?

Each State or Tribal plan provides details on practices and procedures that enable hemp producers to grow hemp in their jurisdiction and in compliance with federal laws.

Hemp Production plans include such details as licensing requirements, sampling and testing procedures, violation information and other important details that hemp producers need to be aware of and follow to maintain compliance.

State and Tribal Hemp Plans are available for review.

May a State or Tribe initially allow producers to use the USDA Domestic Hemp Production Program and later submit their own plan for approval and use?

Yes. States and Indian Tribes may use the USDA plan initially and then, at some later date, submit their own plan to USDA for approval. USDA producer licenses are invalid once the State or Tribe begins to issue licenses under their own jurisdiction.

Who can submit a hemp production plan to USDA for consideration?

The 2018 Farm Bill authorizes State Departments of Agriculture, including agencies representing the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, any other territory of the United States, and federally recognized Indian tribal governments, to submit plans to USDA for consideration.

What should each plan include?

The regulations (pdf) found in the Final Rule at 7 CFR, Part 990, “Domestic Hemp Production” outline the requirements necessary for States and Tribes to administer regulatory programs for hemp production within their boundaries.

Is a state or tribe required to include a performance-based sampling protocol their plan?

No. Many States and Tribes are continuing to use the standard sampling protocol of sampling every lot within 30 days of harvest. A plan may be amended or updated at any time, so those still creating performance-based sampling protocols may choose to submit a plan incorporating standard sampling requirements and then amend the plan in the future to include performance-based sampling protocols.

Can you provide an example of metrics for a performance-based sampling protocol?

When creating metrics for performance-based sampling, a State or Tribe should consider how they can be confident that only compliant hemp is being grown under their plan. For more information about performance-based sampling, please see the Performance-Based Sampling FAQs.

How should States and Indian Tribes submit their plans to USDA?

State and Tribal Hemp Production Programs should be submitted through USDA’s Hemp eManagement Platform (HeMP).

Grower Licensing

How do I obtain a license to produce hemp?

To produce hemp, you must be licensed or authorized under a state hemp program, a tribal hemp program, or the USDA hemp program. The program you are licensed under depends on the location of your hemp growing facility.

If your State or Tribe has an approved plan or is in the process of developing a plan, you must apply to and be licensed or authorized under its hemp program.

The first step is to reach out to your local state department of agriculture or tribal government to see if they have a production plan that has been submitted to or approved by USDA. To find the contact information for your State or tribe, please review the Grower Contacts for Hemp Information.

What if my State or Tribe does not have a pending or approved hemp production plan?

If your state or tribe does not have a pending or approved hemp production plan, you may apply for a USDA hemp production license. To obtain a license to produce hemp under the USDA production program, create an account using the Hemp eManagement Platform (HeMP) and use HeMP to submit a USDA Hemp Application. USDA hemp production applications are accepted on a rolling basis throughout the year.

Are there restrictions on who can obtain a license to grow hemp?

You cannot receive a hemp production license from a state, tribe, or USDA, if you have been convicted of a felony related to a controlled substance in the last 10 years. There may be additional requirements and/or restrictions depending on the state or tribe issuing the license. Please refer to Status of State and Tribal Plans for more information.

What is the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and when do I report to them?

FSA is the USDA agency that issues the lot numbers you will use to track your hemp from production to harvest. All licensed hemp producers are required to set up a Farm Profile with FSA and report their hemp within 30 days from the date hemp was planted. The deadline for reporting to FSA is July 15 annually.

Licensed producers are required to visit their nearest FSA field office, which you can find using the FSA search tool.

Sampling and Testing

How do I locate a certified sampling agent?

For hemp producers licensed under an approved State and Tribal plan, please reach out to your state or hemp program representative for sampling requirements as requirements differ from program to program.

USDA maintains a directory of certified sampling agents qualified to sample USDA licensed hemp producers.

Can the sampling agent prepare my sample for the lab (dry/grind)?

No. Labs are required to prepare samples for testing. Please see the Laboratory Testing Guidelines for more information.

How do I get my hemp tested?

Licensed hemp producers should first verify with their licensing body (State or Tribe) where their hemp may be tested as requirements differ from program to program.

If your program permits you to select a DEA registered laboratory of your choosing, USDA maintains a directory of DEA registered hemp analytical testing laboratories.

Hemp testing laboratories must be registered with DEA to test hemp for compliance by December 31, 2024. On December 19, 2023, USDA extended the deadline for DEA registration, which had been January 1, 2023.

What type of information should a lab report?

Hemp analytical testing laboratories must report formal test results through HeMP. Labs are required to report the producer’s name, license number, address, FSA-issued lot identification number, date of test, whether it is a pre-harvest or post-harvest test, and the test result.

Labs should reach out to AMS at farmbill.hemp@usda.gov for more information on accessing HeMP and program requirements.

What is the delayed enforcement for DEA lab registration notice?

The Final Rule requires that laboratories that test hemp for compliance be registered with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA.) On December 19th 2023 the USDA, in coordination with the DEA, extended the deadline for labs to register with the DEA until December 31, 2024. View the Notice. Labs must still follow all other regulatory requirements in the Final Rule in order to test hemp for compliance.   


Where can I find hemp seed or clones to begin growing hemp?

The USDA does not maintain a list of approved hemp genetics or hemp seed companies. Approval of hemp genetics is not required as a USDA licensed hemp grower. While you are allowed to purchase your hemp genetic material (seed, clones, transplants) from any licensed producer, you should research the company and hemp variety/strain prior to purchase. Consult with your local extension office to determine which varieties/strains may be more suitable for your growing location.

All seed sold in the U.S. requires a label to identify the quality of the seed being purchased. Visit the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) website for more information on hemp seed labeling requirements. 

How do I import hemp seeds into the U.S.?

Please see the following Notice on Importation of Hemp Seeds. You can also find additional information on importing seeds and hemp plants by accessing the U.S. Customs and Border Protection page on Importing hemp seeds and hemp plants into the United States.

How do I export hemp and hemp related products?

Export requirements for hemp related products do not fall under USDA jurisdiction and we are currently not able to offer any resources. For information about exporting hemp seeds or plants, please see the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services’ (APHIS) Plant Health Export Information webpage.

Does USDA offer patent protection for hemp varietals?

Yes, the USDA plant variety protection program offers intellectual property protection to hemp breeders.

Once a hemp producer has been licensed or authorized under a state or tribal hemp plan, or the USDA hemp plan, can their crop qualify for certification under the National Organic Program (NOP)?

Hemp produced in the U.S. under the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program may be certified as organic under USDA organic regulations. USDA accredited certifiers and farms should direct questions about the status of their state or tribe hemp program to state and tribe officials. For imported hemp, existing regulations and guidelines continue to govern whether products may be certified as organic.

Can hemp or hemp-related products be shipped through the U.S. Postal Service?

Yes. For information on mailing hemp and hemp related products through U.S. mail, please see U.S. Postal Service Publication 52 Revision: New Mailability Policy for Cannabis and Hemp-Related Products.

Where can I find information on the regulation of cannabis derived products?

For information on cannabis and cannabis derived products, including foods and CBD, please see the Food and Drug Administration’s Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products: Questions and Answers.

How can I obtain a list of USDA licensed hemp producers?

Information on licensees in your area can be obtained through the Hemp Public Search Tool. Records regarding the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program that have been previously released under the Freedom of Information Act are available at the AMS FOIA webpage. You can also submit a formal FOIA request.

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