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Farm bill addresses hemp

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The version of the 2018 Farm Bill passed by the House of Representatives and Senate was signed by Pres. Donald Trump on Dec. 20, and the bill removes restrictions on hemp 

In the bill, hemp is removed from the Controlled Substances Act list of Schedule I substances, where it has been for many years. 

“With the passage and signing of the farm bill, hemp is no longer treated the same as marijuana,” explains Wyoming Department of Agriculture Deputy Director Stacia Berry. “Now that the farm bill is signed, hemp will not have the restrictions it has today as far as interstate commerce. The farm bill fundamentally changes how hemp will be handled going forward. 

Next steps

Berry says, “We already have a state law that legalizes hemp, passed by Wyoming’s Legislature two years ago.” 

“Even if states don’t have laws on the books authorizing hemp growth, the farm bill allows for a federal licensing program that will allow producers in all states to utilize that program and grow hemp,” she adds.

Many of the hurdles hemp was facing when the state statute was passed were alleviated when the farm bill is signed, but Berry notes there are still several steps to take before farmers can grow the crop. 

Regulations

The farm bill also lays out a set of stipulations that must be followed in growing hemp. 

“As it comes off the Controlled Substances Act Schedule I list, USDA is tasked with starting a federal hemp program. Hemp farming will have to be done within the provisions the agency sets,” Berry explains. 

Among those provisions, states can opt to apply for primacy, or primary regulatory authority, and run their own hemp program. However, state programs must be approved by the Secretary of Agriculture at USDA. 

“State plans for primary regulatory authority must be submitted through the state Department of Agriculture in consultation with the Governor and the state’s chief  law enforcement officer,” Berry explains. “The plans must include information on the land where hemp is grown, procedures for testing, procedures for disposing of plants grown in violation of the law, enforcement of the plan, random sampling procedures, certification that the state has resources and personnel to carry out the program and procedures to submit data to the federal government.”

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the compound responsible for the psychological effects of marijuana, and by law, THC concentration in hemp must be less than 0.3 percent. 

Additional state-specific procedures can be included in state plans. 

After announcing they are prepared to accept state plans, USDA has 60 days from receipt of a state plan to work with states and approve plans, and over time, USDA also audits state programs. 

“It will require involvement from a number of key stakeholders to get a plan together,” Berry commented. “In Wyoming, we’ll be working with the Legislature and the new administration, and we’ll have a lot of conversations to put the pieces together for our next steps.”

State, federal programs

At the federal level, USDA will begin working to develop rules and regulations to govern hemp farming. 

“USDA still has to stand up a program, which will take some time,” Berry explains. “We do have a state program on the books, but it hasn’t moved forward because of a lack of funding.”

Additionally, Berry emphasizes, “There are still violation provisions in our statutes that say, if producers grow hemp without a license, it will cost a $750 fine and possibly result in a misdemeanor. We have a program in place, and we’re in a holding pattern right now.”

While she also knows that those producers interested in growing hemp are anxious to get started, Berry encourages Wyoming farmers to stay in tune with listening sessions, public comments sessions and other activities to provide input and stay abreast of new developments.

Berry reminds producers, “Here in Wyoming, this spring, we’ll learn a lot as we have conversations with the Gov.-elect Gordon and the Legislature about the future of growing hemp in Wyoming.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to roundup@wylr.net.

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