SunSelect Produce, Inc. is planning to grow the recently legalized crop of industrial hemp this summer on 116-acres in Cummings Valley as an additional product to supplement the business. It will continue to focus on growing their main crops of tomatoes and peppers.
“It’s something high-end and it’s a valuable crop. As farmers, we try to find crops to make more revenue. Our goal is to learn how to grow it efficiently and be ahead of the curve,” said Chad Ianneo, president of SunSelect.
He added, “It’s legal and we want to be a good member of the community and make sure everyone is in the know about our plans.”
Planting will be begin June 1, with security on-site, and fencing may be put up around the land, added Ianneo.
Industrial hemp production in California is legal, but has restrictions.
Registered growers and agricultural research institutions may grow the product, although they have to be approved seed cultivators and register with the county agricultural commissioner, according the leginfo.legislature.ca.gov website.
Industrial hemp has no more “than three-tenths of one percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) contained in the dried flowering tops, whether growing or not,” the website reports.
The amount of psychoactive chemicals in the plant is very low compared with THC levels of three to 30 percent in marijuana, according to agmrc.org.
SunSelect is a registered grower.
“We have a temporary research permit with the county agricultural commissioner and that’s the only permit we need at this point,” said Ianneo.
Industrial hemp laws and regulations are being finalized, but states must follow guidelines set by the United States Department of Agriculture.
"Hemp is no longer federally regulated as a controlled substance, due to the removal by the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, also known as the 2018 Farm Bill," said Jodi Letterman, public affairs specialist of the USDA NASS Pacific Regional Field Office.
Letterman added, "Although, the 2018 Farm Bill removed industrial hemp from the controlled substances list, it also made industrial hemp production unlawful if done without a USDA license issued under a USDA plan or in a state without an USDA approved industrial hemp production plan."
Multiple varieties of the plant may be grown, but seeds need to be purchased and the varieties grown need to be on the state list, said Ianneo.
“We are growing it mainly for CBG oil and secondary uses for the fiber can range from clothing to rope or other products,” added Ianneo.
“Hemp production is expected to significantly grow in the next few years due to the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, and there'll be a significant shared state-federal authority over hemp cultivation and production,” said Aline DeLucia, director of public policy for the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture in a webinar at ams.usda.gov.