2020 Outlook: Licensed US hemp acreage falls 9% from 2019, but grower numbers increase 27%

U.S. farmers are planting less hemp than they did last year due to regulatory uncertainty, a surplus of hemp flower and biomass held over from 2019 and continuously falling wholesale prices.

As of Thursday, licensed total hemp acreage to date has reached 465,787 acres for the 2020 production season, with 47 state departments of agriculture reporting numbers to Hemp Industry Daily.

The 2020 licensed acreage is a 9% decrease, compared to 511,442 total licensed acres of hemp across 34 states in 2019, which was more than quadruple the number of acres licensed from 2018, industry advocacy group Vote Hemp reported last fall. Hemp production acreage in 2020 was projected by many industry insiders to decrease for the first time since 2014, when the 2014 Farm Bill established hemp pilot research programs nationwide.

Even with new hemp states coming online after passing hemp production legislation in 2019 and gaining USDA approval for their state plans, overall acreage numbers to date are down from last year.

Number breakdown

Some states don’t separate outdoor and indoor production but of the 27 that do, licensed indoor production accounts for 93,666,091 square feet or 2,150 acres.

Comparatively, the largest 100 greenhouse producers in the U.S. account for just under 220 million square feet of indoor production, according to an annual ranking from Greenhouse Grower, a news publication covering the sector.

States licensed a total of 21,496 growers, a 27% increase compared to the 16,877 farmers and researchers licensed in 34 states in 2019, according to Vote Hemp. The number of growers licensed for 2019 showed a 476% increase over 2018.

Seven states didn’t have acreage numbers ready yet and several said that their numbers are not final, as growers continue to apply for licenses.

One state, New Hampshire, has producers growing under U.S. Department of Agriculture jurisdiction. A spokesman for the agency told Hemp Industry Daily that the USDA has issued five licenses to producers in the state.

States that track and require processor licenses have granted 4,485 processor-handlers licenses. However, several states said they don’t require licenses for processors, so there is much greater processing capacity within the U.S. that is currently unaccounted for.

Top states

States that have led the nation in hemp production since 2014 have seen a marked decrease in licensed acreage. Of the top 10 hemp states by acreage licensed in 2018, only two...