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How to Source Viable Hemp Seeds

Whether sourcing domestically or internationally, U.S. hemp farmers have a myriad of options. But ensuring they don’t run afoul of the law and still receive quality, high-CBD seed requires a bit of knowhow.

This article was originally published in Issue 6 of HEMP. Subscribe HERE or find in a local grocery store.

With hemp newly legalized at the federal level, farmers across the country are eager to begin planting the crop. But acquiring seed can present questions to the new hemp farmer: How can one be sure to purchase high-quality seed only? What are the legal issues involved?

The quality of hemp seed can vary greatly, and inferior choices can be costly. For example, in Oregon, a group of growers is suing three seed dealers for selling defective seed that they say caused more than $21 million in damages. According to one plaintiff, what was sold as feminized seed for a high-CBD strain produced poor quality flower and pollen that ruined a nearby marijuana field.

Illustration Francisco Freeman

Certified Hemp Seed Now Available

One way to ensure that hemp seed is high quality is to purchase seed approved by a certifying agency, such as the Association of Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA), says Wendy Mosher, CEO of New West Genetics in Fort Collins, Colorado.

“Certified seed means a very specific thing to farmers,” says Mosher. “It’s not a broad, catch-all term at all. It means that it’s been approved by AOSCA, which is a large seed-certifying agency to which North America belongs.”

New West Genetics has developed the first hemp seed bred in the United States to be certified by AOSCA, a varietal known as NWG-ELITE. The Colorado Department of Agriculture created the country’s first hemp seed certification program in 2016. To qualify for certification under the program, hemp varieties must perform well in five diverse growing regions across the state. The varietals must also show that they’re not prone to THC levels above 0.3 percent.

The quality of hemp seed can vary greatly, and inferior choices can be costly.

Mosher says that New West Genetics set out in 2014 to breed varieties of hemp with enhanced cannabinoid profiles that could be cultivated on a large scale using traditional farming equipment. The company bred and grew millions of plants, selecting only about 0.5 percent of those each season that best exhibited the desired traits.

“It’s a highly selective process to get plants stable and to continue to do exactly what you want [them] to do,” Mosher says.

With the successful certification of NWG-ELITE in January 2018, New West Genetics made the seed available for purchase by farmers in states that have legalized hemp agriculture.

Chris Boucher is the CEO of Farmtiva, an agricultural company that farmed 55 acres of hemp in California’s Imperial Valley in 2018. He says that farmers should protect themselves by buying seed from a reputable breeder.

“It’s very important that you buy a stable seed … meaning that they’re hopefully not going to go to 0.3 percent [THC],” says Boucher.

Farmtiva is breeding hemp varieties high in CBD and will be marketing them to farmers participating in California’s newly legal pilot program.

Prior to the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, Boucher says the regulations governing the purchase of hemp seed varied from state-to-state, meaning farmers had to be careful to be fully compliant with the rules for their jurisdiction. In West Virginia, a farmer was sued by federal prosecutors for purchasing seed in Kentucky and transporting it across state lines. On the application to grow hemp, the farmer had indicated that he would be importing seed from abroad.

Today, Boucher says that provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill take the legal ambiguity out of transporting hemp seed from state-to-state.

“It really gives the buyers and the sellers a legal interstate transportation avenue,” he says. “You don’t have to worry about it if you’re shipping seeds from a registered grower to another registered grower, as long as your paperwork is correct.”

That clarification can give growers valuable peace of mind.

“It alleviates all of the potential legal headaches — that the DEA could seize your seed, or say it’s marijuana, etc. So now there’s a whole paper trail that is in place that really secures the industry as a whole,” says Boucher.

Importing Hemp Seed

Besides buying from domestic breeders, farmers can also acquire hemp seed from companies in Europe and Canada. Many foreign breeders have representatives in the U.S. that can help arrange a purchase for import. But those varieties are usually best adapted for the region in which they were developed, and the strains highest in CBD percentage have been bred domestically.

“Unfortunately, there are no CBD strains that are on the international imports list because CBD [strains] are an American invention,” says Boucher. “The Europeans are trying, and they are stealing our genetics left and right, but you have to get your high-end CBD seeds stateside and you don’t need a DEA permit for that.”

“The Europeans are trying, and they are stealing our genetics left and right, but you have to get your high-end CBD seeds stateside and you don’t need a DEA permit for that.”

In an email to HEMP before the 2018 Farm Bill, Dirk Fillpot, a communications coordinator at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said that importing hemp seed is legal if strict requirements are met.

“Farmers are able to import industrial hemp seeds if they meet the conditions of the Federal Seed Act, including labeling requirements. They would need to also apply for an import permit and a phytosanitary certificate for the shipment,” Fillpot wrote.

Fillpot could not be reached for further clarification after the Farm Bill’s passage.

Customs and Border Protection advises on its website that imports of viable hemp seed will be permitted with the proper paperwork: “Non-sterilized hemp seeds remain a schedule I controlled substance and therefore may only be imported into the U.S. with a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Application for Permit to Import Controlled Substances/Domestic and/or Scientific Purposes form.”

The application, DEA Form 357, is available online.

A healthy and profitable hemp field starts with quality genetics. Acquiring superior seed can be costly and requires attention to the details of regulation, but with due diligence in strain selection and compliance, it’s possible to make hemp a successful part of a farmer’s business.

U.S. hemp farmers have a myriad of options for sourcing hemp seeds. But ensuring they don’t run afoul of the law and still receive quality, high-CBD takes a bit of knowhow.

Where to Buy Hemp Seeds to Farm: 6 Tips from Hemp Farmers

Since the U.S. government relaxed restrictions on hemp farming in the Farm Bills of 2014 and 2018, many farmers have started planting this lucrative crop. If you are interested in adding hemp to your farm, you might be wondering how to get started. The answer is simple. Start with the right hemp seeds. Every farmer knows that the key to a successful crop begins with quality seeds. But how do you find hemp seeds for growing, and how can you evaluate the quality of the seeds?

Here are the six tips to buying hemp seeds to grow, straight from the mouths of experienced and successful hemp farmers:

1. Decide What You Want to Achieve

Hemp is an extremely versatile plant that can be farmed for a variety of different purposes, including fiber, grain, cannabidiol (CBD) extracts, cannabigerol (CBG) extracts, or smokable flowers. Different hemp seeds are cultivated to enhance the production of one or another of these features.

Therefore, it’s crucial that before you invest in hemp seeds for growing, you determine what results you want.

Are you interested in harvesting fiber or grain? What about CBD or CBG oil? Currently, CBD oil is the most profitable hemp crop to plant. Some sources estimate that farmers can see a profit of up to $40,000 per acre of hemp cultivated for CBD oil. While there is a large range in final profitability, interest in CBG oil is also beginning to increase, selling at an even higher price than CBD oil, yielding as high as 3 times the value of CBD.

2. Focus on Good Genetics

Once you’ve decided what hemp product you want to harvest, search for seed companies that offer hemp strains designed for that purpose. Often, these companies have spent years crossbreeding strains to enhance the seed’s output. For example, a hemp seed that can increase CBD production by just 2% in each plant can result in thousands of extra dollars in your pocket for every acre planted.

As you dive into your hemp seed research, you’ll likely discover that farmers and hemp experts mention the same strains again and again as the best in the industry. Choose the company that originated those strains rather than seed resellers.

Finally, good seed genes are about more than just increasing output. You also want to search out seeds that will grow into resilient plants that can survive and thrive in different environments and through a variety of weather conditions. Look for hemp seed strains adapted to your growing season and local environmental conditions.

3. Buy Feminized Seeds

If, like many hemp farmers, you want to focus on producing CBD or CBG oil, then the feminization rate in your seed selection matters. Hemp plants can be either male or female. Both CBD and CBG oil are dominantly derived from the flowers of the female plant. If a male plant pollinates a female plant, it will dramatically lower the amount of CBD and CBG oil female plants produce. Even a few male plants in a field can noticeably cut the CBD and CBG oil production of your crop and your profits along with it.

It’s incredibly important to work with a seed company that provides feminized seeds. No company can guarantee 100% feminized seeds, but the best seed companies can get very close (and they will teach you how to quickly identify male plants).

In the farming business, a few percentage points here or there can make the difference between a profitable crop and dipping into the red after all your hard work. When it comes to where to buy hemp seeds, invest in companies that can offer the very highest feminization rates.

4. Look at a Hemp Seed Company’s History and Reputation

The recent relaxation of laws against hemp farming has led to a rush of new players in the industry looking to “cash in” on the hottest new crop to hit the market. Suddenly everyone and their brother has hemp seeds and other related products to sell to unwary farmers.

Look before you buy hemp seeds for growing! Take the time to do your due diligence and research a company’s history and reputation before you invest your hard-earned money. Because hemp farming was essentially outlawed up until 2014, hemp seed companies are still relatively new. However, the top companies have been around for years and have invested a lot of time and effort into creating high-producing strains of hemp seeds. These companies also make a point of working directly with hemp farmers and agricultural scientists to ensure the quality of their seeds.

5. Work with Seed Companies that Understand Compliance

Industrial hemp farmers need to be extremely careful to ensure that their hemp product stays in compliance with federal law. That means their hemp crop must have a concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) below 0.3%.

Compliance starts with the seed company. You’ll want to choose hemp seeds for growing for sale that are genetically designed to produce low amounts of THC. If your seed company doesn’t provide low-THC seeds, it will be nearly impossible to stay in compliance.

Of course, each farmer must test their plants through every stage in the growing process to ensure THC rates are below the limit. Starting out with the right seeds, however, can make this process much easier and help ensure you get to harvest without any compliance issues.

6. Invest with a Seed Company That Provides Excellent Customer Service

No crop is guaranteed, which is why knowledge is power for farmers. Choosing the seeds for your hemp crop is one of the most important decisions you’ll make, so it helps to get the right kind of guidance. The best hemp seed companies care deeply about helping their clients make educated and confident decisions when they buy hemp seeds to grow.

For example, a hemp seed company should be happy to take the time to explain the features and benefits of their different hemp seed strains. They should be eager to learn about your farm, your budget, and your goals so they can make hemp strain suggestions that will give you the best chance of success. They should also be able to answer questions about what equipment you need and whether hemp seed starts would be a better option for your farming setup.

Before you buy hemp seeds from a company, give them a call and talk to a representative. Make sure they’ll take the time to help you make the best choice for your farm.

It All Starts with the Seed

A good hemp crop comes from good hemp seeds. A lot of new farmers wonder where to buy hemp seeds, but the answer is easy: choose High Grade Hemp Seed. We were founded in 2011 and became one of America’s first certified hemp farms. We’ve spent years building up a team of expert farmers and scientists and crossbreeding hemp seeds to develop the very best strains.

Our results speak for themselves. We offer seeds with a 99.9% feminization rate and a 98% germination rate. Our Berry Blossom hemp strain is considered an industry standard for high CBD production, and we’ve developed five additional CBD-oriented strains that are quickly becoming farmer favorites in their own right. Our Matterhorn CBG strain is one of the very best for producing CBG.

Of course, don’t just take it from us—let us show you what we’re all about. Give us a call and tell us your story. We would love to hear about your goals and to help you find the right hemp strain and seed type for hemp success. Contact us today or take a look at our highly praised hemp seed strains.

Wondering where to buy hemp seeds? A bumper hemp crop starts with the right seed. Read this week’s High Grade blog to learn more about growing CBD hemp seed.