Wallaces Farmer

Iowa Ag Department urges USDA to revise harvest timelines and negligent violation caps.

Rod Swoboda

February 4, 2020

2 Min Read
Hemp and marijuana in a field
CONTRIBUTING TO CHALLENGE: Hemp and marijuana are grown from the same plant, and can only be differentiated by a lab test.Farm Progress

Last week the Iowa Department of Agriculture submitted comments to USDA regarding the proposed interim final regulations that will govern hemp production. Iowa is challenging some of the regulations, saying farmers could risk criminal charges for growing marijuana — even though they didn’t intend to do so.

The federal government’s requirements fail to provide enough protection for farmers who inadvertently grow marijuana instead of hemp, says Robin Pruisner, the Iowa Department of Ag’s hemp administrator. The question is how much THC can be allowed in a hemp crop? Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the psychoactive chemical in the plant that makes users high.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig announced last week that the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship has submitted comments to USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service on the Establishment of a Domestic Hemp Production Program interim final rule (IFR). 

Uncertainties raised by proposed rules

“The Iowa Department of Ag is fielding questions about hemp production in Iowa every day. Producers are interested in purchasing hemp seed and obtaining a license in time for the 2020 growing season,” Naig says. “There are some uncertainties and inconsistencies in the federal regulatory framework, and those issues need to be addressed. There must be a uniform and predictable set of standards for hemp producers and regulators across the country, so growers have the opportunity to be successful.”

The Iowa Department of Ag is encouraging USDA to:

  • extend the sampling and harvest timeline from 15 to 21 days

  • require that all official hemp testing laboratories are ISO-17025 accredited to ensure they are held to the same quality, safety and efficiency standards

  • increase the negligent violation range from 0.3-0.5% to 0.3-2.0% THC

  • allow states to determine the appropriate duration of periodic corrective action plan reports based on the severity of the infractions

  • work with the Drug Enforcement Administration to direct states on how to dispose of non-compliant cannabis crops

  • let states work directly with local law enforcement, instead of DEA reverse distributors, to order and carry out the destruction of noncompliant cannabis crops

To read the full comment letter from the Iowa Department of Ag to USDA, visit iowaagriculture.gov/hemp.

The Iowa Ag Department submitted its plan to license and regulate the production of hemp in Iowa to USDA on Dec. 11. USDA has 60 days to review and provide feedback. It is not legal to grow, possess, buy or sell hemp in Iowa until the USDA approves the state plan and the Iowa Department of Ag publishes notice of the approval in the Iowa Administrative Bulletin.

Pruisner cautions Iowa growers who are interested in producing hemp “to do their research and confirm that there is a viable, profitable market for commercial hemp production before they make an investment in plant genetics and equipment.”



About the Author(s)

Rod Swoboda

Rod Swoboda is a former editor of Wallaces Farmer and is now retired.

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