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The West Virginia Department of Agriculture announced on Tuesday that the West Virginia Department of Agriculture announced the opening of the application period for the state’s industrial hemp program for the 2021 growing season.

West Virginia’s hemp industry is continuously growing.

“We have seen tremendous growth within the hemp industry these last few years,” West Virginia’s Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt said.

The number of West Virginia licensed industrial hemp growers jumped from 24 in 2017 to 305 in 2020. The producers who were granted a permit for the 2020 growing season planned on raising 2,531 acres of industrial hemp.

On Tuesday, the West Virginia Department of Agriculture announced the opening of the application period for the state’s industrial hemp program for the 2021 growing season. It will be the fourth for commercial harvest of industrial hemp.

“As the industry continues to develop, the department is working to educate producers on best practices, as well as help develop industry standards,” Leonhardt said. “With new federal guidelines being implemented for the 2021 growing season, our farmers will see very little changes in how they have operated. This will give our producers a leg up as other states make adjustments. I am proud of the proactive approach lawmakers and the department have taken thus far.”

Those interested in growing industrial hemp must apply by Oct. 31, 2020, according to a WVDA press release said.

“To receive a license by the first of the year, all required materials should be submitted by the application deadline,” the release said. “Processor licenses may be submitted at any time but are only valid until Dec. 31 of that year.”

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved West Virginia’s industrial hemp plan earlier this year. The 2021 growing season will be the first year under that approved plan, as well as new federal guidelines issued by the USDA.

For more information, visit https://agriculture.wv.gov/ divisions/plant-industries/ industrial-hemp/ or https:// agriculture.wv.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Cover- Letter-082620.pdf

For the 2021 industrial hemp application: https://agri culture.wv.gov/wp-content/up loads/2020/08/2021-Hemp-Cul tivation-Processor-App-Final.pdf.

Follow reporter Fred Pace at Facebook.com/FredPaceHD and via Twitter @FredPaceHD.