The Ohio Department of Agriculture received 198 applications for hemp production licenses for the 2020 growing season, the state’s first shot at a legal hemp market. It may be a lower number than industry stakeholders expected, but certain elements of the Ohio climate and the regulatory landscape may offer great promise.

Craig Schuttenhofer, research assistant professor at Central State University in Xenia, Ohio, says that the state’s glaciated soils will be nice for the crop. At the eastern edge of the Corn Belt, great swaths of Ohio’s landscape will be terrific for hemp. There are wet regions in the state, but, by and large, the long growing season should prove beneficial to the hemp crop.

“We do have a good amount of seasonal moisture, but at the same time it’s not an excess during the natural growing season,” he says.

Notably, Ohio will be operating under the federal guidance of the 2018 Farm Bill. Many states—including major players in the industry, like Kentucky, Oregon and Colorado—are continuing this year to work under 2014 Farm Bill pilot program auspices. The differences between those states’ pilot program oversight measures and the 2018 Farm Bill can be vast. This may give Ohio farmers a leg up on the competition, Schluttenhofer says.

Next year, before the 2021 growing season really gets under way, those other states will need to get in line with the 2018 Farm Bill. Schulettenhofer says that this first year may give Ohio an advantage; the switch to the new regulations will be a complex adjustment.

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