Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue issues warning for hemp farmers

As the hype around hemp ramps up and states issue record numbers of licenses to farmers wanting to capitalize on opportunities the new crop may offer, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said this week he isn’t so sure hemp will be the cash crop everyone is hoping for.

“What is the market potential of industrial hemp? Farmers in the United States are so productive, they could crash this market before it gets off the ground,” Perdue told online news agency Cheddar on Tuesday.

“You would think that was the only thing in the Farm Bill from the questions that we get.”

Perdue predicted that hemp farmers would likely avoid further pursuits into the cannabis market.

“They are not interested in growing marijuana,” Perdue said.

“They understand the conflict between some states being legal and federal law being illegal.”

Perdue’s comments follow last week’s hemp program and 2018 Farm Bill webinar, in which hemp industry leaders told the USDA what is needed in hemp regulation.

Faster rulemaking, immediate hemp transportation laws that were promised under the 2018 Farm Bill, common national THC-testing standards and an end to restrictions on imported seed in time for the 2019 season were among the industry’s most common requests.

The secretary told the hemp industry in February that the USDA would postpone reviewing state and tribal hemp plans until the rules were set for the 2020 season.

The USDA’s agricultural marketing service administrator, Bruce Summers, said last week that the agency will aim to complete the hemp production regulations by fall 2019, in time for states to submit plans for the 2020 spring hemp planting season.

The USDA-AMS has made the Farm Bill webinar available on its website, where it also will address questions and additional comments. These can be sent to