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General Assembly approves changes to Missouri’s fledgling hemp program

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Farmers have yet to plant their first hemp crops in Missouri yet the legislature has already altered the parameters of the program.

On Wednesday, the Missouri General Assembly truly agreed and finally passed an all-encompassing agriculture bill that included provisions on industrial hemp. In a 131-6 vote from the House, SB 133 now heads to the governor’s desk.

The alterations, championed by Rep. Rick Francis and Sen. Denny Hoskins, update the language in Missouri statute to be consistent with the standards laid out in the U.S. 2018 Farm Bill.

“I’m happy for the agricultural community in the state of Missouri,” Francis, who sponsored the House version of the bill, told the Missouri Times. “It will offer opportunities we have not seen for decades. It has the opportunity of becoming a crop which could economically benefit farmers here in the state.”

In 2018, the Missouri General Assembly authorized a pilot program in Missouri for hemp — as outlined in the 2014 U.S. Farm Bill. Under the Industrial Hemp Agricultural Pilot Program, production was limited to 2,000 acres statewide and to 10 acres to 40 acres per farmer — except for research purposes.

The newly approved provisions repeal the pilot program and remove the acreage restrictions on cultivating hemp. It also brings Missouri’s statutes in line with federal requirements.

“Passage of hemp legislation to take off the caps will allow hard-working Missouri farmers to fully participate in this exciting new commodity,” Hoskins, who sponsored the Senate version of the legislation, told the Missouri Times.

Farmers would be required to undergo a background check, obtain a permit from the Department of Agriculture, and submit to random testing of the crop. Individuals with a felony record could be approved to grow hemp if the offense is older than 10 years.

Universities will be allowed to plant and research hemp starting this year. The legislature added an emergency clause, which was approved by both chambers, to the provisions related to university research. That section of the law will go into effect upon the governor’s signature.

“Our universities need to have this, our farmers need to have this,” Rep. Don Rone previously said.

The bill the hemp legislation is attached to also repeals the Missouri Treated Timber Law, allows for the assessment of civil penalties for violating statutes relating to eggs, and requires sawmills be classified as agricultural property.

SB 133 also creates the “Pesticide Education Fund,” which shall be used to provide funding for pesticide applicator certification programs, pesticide education programs, and pesticide waste and container disposal programs.