Senators Advocate for Improved USDA Hemp Regulations
Oregon Senators Wyden and Merkely submitted a letter to USDA on November 20th, 2019. The letter requests changes to the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program Interim Final Rules on behalf of hemp farmers and processors across the country. These requests come on the heels of the USDA publishing the Interim Final Rules, as well as supporting guidance documents, laying out regulations for commercial hemp production, harvesting, testing, and more.
Concerns & Requested Fixes
The Senators’ letter includes comments and requests fixes for the following:
Concern: USDA’s interim final rule requires growers to test hemp plants within 15 days of anticipated harvest. This is an “impossible obstacle for growers to overcome and does not provide enough time.”
Requested Fix: Follow the Oregon model (28 days) and extend the timeline for testing before harvest to a more realistic time frame, and provide a reasonable time frame for post-testing harvest.
Concern: Interim rules require hemp farmers to submit their crops to a DEA registered laboratory for testing. As hemp is a legal commodity under the 2018 Hemp Farm Bill, it should not be subjected to prohibitive DEA regulations. Furthermore, DEA-registered labs could cause a bottleneck and delays for hemp producers.
Requested Fix: Remove the requirement that testing labs must be Drug Enforcement Administration registered and rely on state registered independent labs instead.
Concern: USDA sampling requirements call for flower or bud from the top one-third of the plant be tested. However, many farmers utilize the entire hemp plant, including stems, stalks and leaves. This means testing samples will not be an accurate representation of the final product going to sale/processing.
Requested Fix: Follow Oregon’s pre-harvest sampling protocol that a “sample shall be obtained from flowering tops when flowering tops are present, and shall be approximately 8 inches in length.”
Concern: Negligence threshold, and criminal charges, for hemp at .5% THC is an arbitrary amount and far too low.
Requested Fix: Set a negligence threshold greater than 1% for THC content—if one must be set.
USDA Request for Comments
The USDA has called for and is accepting comments on the establishment of US Domestic Hemp Production Program interim final rules. While the rules were made effective October 31, 2019, comments will be accepted on the rules until December 30, 2019.
To submit a comment to the USDA regarding these rules, you can do so here.
In addition to the Interim Final Rules, the USDA has created supplemental documents and webinars to help the public understand the nature of the rules and the hemp industry in general. Here are some helpful links: