• Educate advocates and law makers about the need for hemp exemptions for grain and fiber
• Unite advocates, industry stakeholders, and organizations to take-action and support the cause
• Secure legislative support for proposal an Exemption Framework
• Enact better policies nationwide for American hemp farmers growing for grain and fiber
We plant seeds but not just any seeds. Farmers select the seeds of a plant for an end-use agricultural product. As with any agriculture commodity, the details from soil preparation, seed drilling, and density are all carefully planned for a specific harvest. In this case, let’s consider hemp, also referred to as industrial hemp or just hemp.
You may be familiar with the word Cannabis, which classifies the plant genus, including industrial hemp. But among these plant species, there is much diversity. The crop has notable distinctions depending on the intended harvested material, grain, straw, or flower. Currently, regardless of the farming practices or material harvested, all of these plants are evaluated and thus regulated on one organic compound, tetrahydrocannabinol or better known as THC.
Why do we need hemp exemptions for grain and fiber?
Since 2014, every Agricultural Act, also known as the Farm Bill, has defined hemp and broadened how we may grow it initially for research purposes and now for commercial production. Finally, in 2018, the 45th President of the United States signed into law a new definition recognizing hemp as an agricultural commodity. However, this critical step towards legalizing hemp farming nationwide did not account for industry nuances when growing and processing diverse crops, particularly grain and fiber.
The language that became law assigned authority to the USDA based on a limited and outdated belief. The idea is that because hemp is part of the Cannabis genus, regardless of its target production, it must be subject to THC testing. Although the intent behind this testing is valid in ensuring producers are not propagating a DEA-controlled substance, the overbearing perception and management of THC create unnecessary challenges for a historically profitable and productive crop.
The current singular plan that manages three very different crops remains problematic. It puts a cost burden and red tape on farmers who require a more efficient process to succeed and increase acreage to meet demands for grain and fiber. This scenario is one of the reasons Canada decided to enact a policy to exempt certain varieties from THC testing in 2005. The Canadian government administration, Health Canada, now issues a List of Approved Cultivars for hemp varieties annually. Similarly, Montana’s USDA-approved state Hemp Plan, follows performance-based sampling and remediation methods based on risk for higher levels of THC. Therefore, the idea that certain hemp varieties may be exempt from THC testing is not new, and it’s time we work to make this federal policy.
Hemp has been growing, again, in the United States for the last seven (7) years. Pilot programs under the authority of the State Departments of Agriculture have collected data about the varieties grown and have adhered to and strictly enforced THC testing protocols. It’s time that we leverage that information to reduce the burden on hemp farmers who grow for grain and fiber. The end-use products that result from their production are already recognized and exempted from the Controlled Substances Act. So why should we continue to burden the farmers who grow these crops with background checks, costly sampling, and testing protocols?
In summary, it's simple. Producers who choose to grow hemp for grain and/or fiber purposes are at very low, if any risk at all, of harvesting an illegal crop. Therefore, federal law should not mandate testing and instead enforce reasonable programs that require harvest designation and visual inspection of hemp fields, both of which are far less burdensome to the American farmer.