Nothing signals consumer trust quite like the USDA organic seal.
And after enduring countless hardships since 2019, hemp farmers are on the lookout for ways they can improve the sellability of their plants.
So between consumer trust and marketability, going organic seems like a no-brainer… Right?
If only it were that easy!
Like most things in this industry, getting certified organic hemp doesn’t come easy.
Let’s take a look at how you’d get your plants certified organic…
The challenges you face…
And a forecast of the road ahead for farmers who want the ultimate organic seal of approval.
Thinking of Going Organic?
What should you expect to get your hemp certified?
The USDA requires extremely specific requirements in both hemp farming and manufacturing to meet the standards of organic certification.
First, you’ll need to make sure the land you’re cultivating has been free of prohibited substances (i.e. most pesticides) for at least 3 years.
Next, you’ll need to welcome an inspection of your operation from a certifying agency with USDA accreditation.
And according to a November 2019 instruction update from the USDA, “only hemp produced in accordance with the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program and/or the 2014 Farm Bill may be certified as organic, if produced in accordance with USDA organic regulations.”
Now, keep in mind…
Just because your hemp crop is certified organic does not mean your end product is too.
Take it from Hayleigh’s Hope, the first company to receive the organic seal of approval for a hemp product.
According to their CEO Jason Cranford, aligning their plants with the USDA standards was a relatively simple process.
But at the time, they didn’t realize it wouldn’t apply to their CBD oil as well.
And that process? Well, that wasn’t quite as straightforward.
Cranford says the company went through multiple inspections. Books, facilities, and operational interviews were all par for the course.
It’s an exhaustive process. One that Cranford and his team earned.
Unfortunately, some hemp companies have taken the easy way out, claiming to sell organic products without enduring the many steps toward certification.
And while such actions are punishable by a fine of up to $17,952 per violation, some farmers still take the risk.
Now, here’s something else to consider…
The Obstacles to Organic Certification Pile Up for Hemp
Sure, attaining a USDA organic certification can be challenging for most farmers.
But when you’re farming hemp, legal and regulatory issues make it even harder.
Because there’s still a stigma surrounding the plant, and confusing about how it relates to cannabis, some companies avoid working with hemp altogether.
Add the risk of hot hemp to the mix, and these certifiers decide it’s risky business.
The chance they’ll end up with THC-heavy plants on their hands isn’t worth the opportunity to certify it.
Attorney Corey Cox explained the third-party hesitation to Hemp Benchmarks, saying they’re “worried they might be in possession of products that, if too hot, might be considered marijuana. And along with potential legal issues, there’s also a reputational risk for that company in that situation.”
And CBD’s Classification Makes Things Messier
Furthermore, the FDA complicates things with their classification of CBD as an active ingredient in drugs like Epidolex.
And their position is that these ingredients cannot be marketed as dietary supplements, nor can they make their way into food products.
Needless to say, the complex categorizations surrounding CBD make certifying agents even warier of working with the plant.
Now, that might all change if a path to regulation of CBD in supplements opens up.
In the meantime, however, most agencies prefer not to take the risk.
Yes, it’s not like you can just snap your fingers and expect a certification to land in your lap. But other hemp farmers and processors have found a way to appeal to this niche market, and so can you.
However, there’s one last thing to consider…
Is organic really the best option for maximizing the genetics of your hemp plants?
Let’s dig in…
Organic Certification and Optimal Genetics Don’t Always Mix
Since 2019, it’s become abundantly clear that investing in high-quality hemp seed is a determining factor in unlocking the true genetic potential of your plants.
So after investing in the right seeds, the last thing you want to do is rely a fertilizer that won’t reveal the desirable traits you’re after.
It’s why, while organic looks good on paper, many farmers are turning to dependable processes backed by years of hemp-specific expertise.
And that means relying on a fertilizer whose nutrients are refined and bioavailable to their plants.
“Growing organically can be great, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better,” says hemp expert Justin Pullin. “It’s important to rely on a fertilizer that’s got hemp-specific ratios of macro and micro nutrients, or you won’t maximize the true genetic potential of the plant.”
The bottom line is this… Before you starting navigating another maze of regulations and processes, make sure you’ve got optimal genetics nailed down for your specific region and/or environment.
Click here to learn more about providing best-in-class nutrition to your high-value plants.