The Interim Final Rule for Hemp Production will be published in the Federal Register on Oct. 31. The rule goes into effect on that day, but public comments will be accepted for 60 days until Dec. 30.
USDA will use the 2020 growing season to ‘test drive’ the interim final rule, said Greg Ibach, USDA’s Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs. The interim rule will sunset in two years, he said.
Key provisions of the rule include:
- Licensing requirements,
- Provisions for tracking the land where hemp is grown,
- Procedures for testing THC concentration levels for hemp,
- Procedures for disposing of plants that exceed the .3 THC concentration level, and
- Procedures for handling violations.
The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the Drug Enforcement Administration Schedule I controlled substance designation, expanding opportunities that were granted in the 2014 Farm Bill.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 47 states have legislation establishing industrial hemp programs.
It’s estimated that 120,000 acres of hemp were planted across the United States in 2018 and more than 500,000 acres grown in 2019.
“The experience that producers have this fall with harvesting, handling and finding buyers and will be instructive as to whether or not we see continued growth in this industry,” Ibach said. Throughout the growing season, USDA has cautioned growers to have a relationship with an end user.
The states that have a hemp plan will need to make sure their state plan is compliant with the federal interim rule. The state and tribal plans must be submitted to USDA. USDA then has 60 days to respond, Ibach said. He hopes to have an interactive discussion with states that submit their plans. Individuals in the states without plans will need to work directly with USDA. The state plans must be at least as restrictive as the federal law, they may be more restrictive.
The announcement enables hemp growers to utilize Farm Service Agency, National Resources Conservation Service and Risk Management Agency services. Hemp growers will be able to participate in the USDA crop production program. They will be able to purchase whole farm crop insurance and loan programs for hemp producers are in development, said Bill Northey, USDA Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation. Hemp producers will also need to file an acreage report, similar to those filed by corn, soybean and wheat growers. This will give USDA a greater understanding of hemp production in the country.
The crop insurance will not include a provision to protect farmers from THC higher than the legal limit of .3, Ibach said, likening it to quality issues in other crops.