Congress gives hemp farmers last-minute delay on USDA compliance

Hemp farmers stuck in limbo on the rules they’ll have to follow next year have been given a one-year extension to keep growing the crop while regulators hammer out local and federal differences on hemp regulations.

Congress signed off late Wednesday on a stop-gap budget bill that includes a delay on the requirement that all states, tribes and territories comply with hemp rules laid out by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The requirement was to take effect Nov. 1.

While some 20 states drafted a plan that’s USDA approved, nearly half of the states are cultivating hemp this year under the less-restrictive 2014 regulations that were grandfathered for a year when the USDA set a national framework last fall. Many of them have yet to see USDA approve their plans for 2021 and beyond.

Had those grandfathered rules expired, hemp farmers in those limbo states would not have been able to legally harvest, process or sell what they grew this year.

That grandfather period was supposed to end on Oct. 31 of this year, which prompted an outcry from industry groups and states who argued the USDA rules are proposing are too restrictive to comply with in time.

In the past two months, industry groups and some states began pressing the federal government to give farmers another year to make sure they’re compliant.

“Hemp farmers across the country will have more certainty tomorrow while states continue their important work to submit final plans to the USDA for approval,” Patrick Atagi of the National Industrial Hemp Council said in a statement.

Hemp states getting another year to work out federal hemp approval include some of the Top 10 producers, including:

  • Arizona.
  • California.
  • Colorado.
  • Kentucky.
  • Michigan.
  • Oregon.