Hemp production: USDA sticks to original hemp plans
Published on Feb. 15, 2020
Following a comment period after the initial Oct. 31 filing of interim final rules, as of Feb. 6, hemp farmers will have to abide by original cropping rules set out by the USDA, including those for testing. These rules will be effective from Oct. 31, 2019 to Nov. 1, 2020.
According to USDA Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS), the 2018 Farm Bill directed USDA to establish a national regulatory framework for hemp production in the United States. USDA established the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program through an interim final rule.
This rule outlines provisions for the USDA to approve plans submitted by states and Native tribes for the domestic production of hemp. It also establishes a federal plan for producers in states or territories of Native tribes that do not have their own USDA-approved plan.
The interim final rule governs the production of hemp under the 2018 Farm Bill. The interim final rule does not affect industrial hemp that was or is being cultivated under the 2014 Farm Bill programs. That industrial hemp remains subject to the requirements of the 2014 Farm Bill.
According to USDA, hemp is a commodity that can be used for numerous industrial and horticultural purposes including fabric, paper, construction materials, food products, cosmetics, production of cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol or CBD and other products.
While hemp was produced previously in the U.S. for hundreds of years, its usage diminished in favor of alternatives. Hemp fiber, for instance, which had been used to make rope and clothing, was replaced by less expensive jute and abaca imported from Asia.
According to USDA, USDA regulates the importation of all seeds for planting to ensure safe agricultural trade.
Hemp seeds can be imported into the United States from Canada if accompanied by either a phytosanitary certification from Canada’s national plant protection organization to verify the origin of the seed and confirm no plant pests are detected or a Federal Seed Analysis Certificate for hemp seeds grown in Canada.
Hemp seeds imported into the United States from countries other than Canada may be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate from the exporting country’s national plant protection organization to verify the origin of the seed and confirm that no plant pests are detected.
Since importation of seed is covered under USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) regulations, this rule does not further address hemp seed imports or exports.
The 2018 Farm Bill allows for the interstate transportation and shipment of hemp in the United States. This rule does not affect the exportation of hemp. Should there be sufficient interest in exporting hemp in the future, USDA will work with industry and other federal agencies to help facilitate this process.
There are similar requirements all hemp producers must meet. These include licensing requirements, maintaining information on the land on which hemp is produced, procedures for testing the THC concentration levels for hemp, procedures for disposing of non-compliant plants, compliance provisions and procedures for handling violations.
State and tribal plans must incorporate procedures for sampling and testing hemp to ensure the cannabis grown and harvested does not exceed the acceptable hemp THC level.
According to USDA, sampling procedures, among other requirements, must ensure a representative sample of the hemp production is physically collected and delivered to a DEA-registered laboratory for testing. Within 15 days prior to the anticipated harvest of cannabis plants, a federal, state, local or tribal law enforcement agency or other federal, state or tribal designated person shall collect samples from the flower material from such cannabis plants for delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration level testing.
If producers delay harvest beyond 15 days, the plant will likely have a higher THC level at harvest than the sample being tested. This requirement will yield the truest measurement of the THC level at the point of harvest.
Accepting that a pre-harvest inspection is best to identify suspicious plants and activities, and that the sample should be taken as close to harvest as possible, the time was selected based on what would be a reasonable time for a farmer to harvest an entire field.
According to Progressive Farmer Analyst Christ Clayton, “Crops testing higher than 0.3 percent will have to be destroyed based on protocols in a state regulatory plan. Farms that test above 0.5 percent will be considered negligent and required to file a corrective plan to ensure a hot crop does not happen again.”
“On the testing requirements, there is room for discretion in the final rule,” said Bruce Summers, USDA’s administrator for the Agricultural Marketing Service.
Summers said USDA is looking for ways to ensure farmers can get those test results back within 15 days and that there are enough labs available for testing.
“After extensive consultation with the Attorney General, USDA is issuing this interim final rule to establish the domestic hemp production program and to facilitate the production of hemp, as set forth in the 2018 Farm Bill,” USDA states. “This interim rule will help expand production and sales of domestic hemp, benefiting both U.S. producers and consumers.”
According to a press release by the Wyoming Department of Agriculture (WDA), Wyoming has resubmitted the state plan for delegated authority to regulate the hemp industry in Wyoming to the USDA on Jan. 31, 2020.
“Reconciling the plan that was submitted in April of last year to fit the regulatory framework in the interim rule was an intensive and difficult exercise due to the many challenges of regulating hemp,” says Doug Miyamoto, Director of the WDA. “Everyone involved in this process made this plan a priority in the condensed timeframe we faced and we are confident it will be approved so we can begin our hemp program in Wyoming.”
Upon submission of the plan, USDA has 60 days to determine if the plan is approved and if the WDA will receive delegated authority to regulate hemp in Wyoming.
WDA worked closely with USDA, the Wyoming Attorney General’s office and Gov. Gordon’s office to ensure the plan followed state statutes and federal regulations with the shared goal of implementing the program prior to 2020 growing season.
“We wanted to move quickly with our plan but it was extremely important that we carefully considered this complex regulatory structure in hopes of avoiding delays to implementing a hemp program in Wyoming,” says Miyamoto. “Once our plan is approved, we are on track to have a regulatory program in place for the upcoming growing season and we are excited to give producers and processors in Wyoming another option for their business operations.”
The press release notes while the plan is being reviewed by the USDA, WDA will continue preparing for the implementation of a hemp program in Wyoming. As part of this, emergency rules are being prepared and WDA staff is finalizing various components of the regulatory program.
For more information and updates on hemp in Wyoming and to read the WDA Hemp Regulatory Program Proposal submitted to USDA, visit agriculture.wy.gov.
Callie Hanson is the managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.