Montana, North Dakota keeping old rules for 2020 hemp production season

Two more top hemp states have decided to operate their 2020 hemp production programs under the rules of the 2014 Farm Bill.

As the U.S. Department of Agriculture closed the public comment period last week on its interim final rule for hemp production, regulators in Montana and North Dakota said they will keep their current rules.

Montana, the top hemp producer in 2018 with 22,000 acres, and North Dakota join 10 other states that will keep their pilot programs in place until they expire Oct. 31.

Both states submitted their 2020 plans to the USDA for review, but North Dakota’s plan was rejected and sent back to state officials to change, while Montana’s resubmitted plan remains under review.

Last year, Montana licensed more than 40,000 acres and 250 growers, and North Dakota – formerly a state that limited producers to growing grain and fiber varieties – planned to license 2,175 acres to 38 farmers, according to Hemp Industry Daily‘s 2019 Cultivation Snapshot.

North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring told the Williston Herald that when his state submitted its plan in early 2019, it made small modifications to its pilot program, but the testing requirements for hemp changed when the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had input on the rules.

Goehring, who is also president of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, said he asked the USDA to set different testing rules for grain and fiber production, saying the current testing parameters and interim final rules are “too much designed” for CBD and not the food and fiber varieties and uses for hemp.

The stringent sampling protocols in the USDA’s rules, which require law enforcement to visit all farms within a 15-day window before harvest, could make hemp programs too expensive for states to operate, said Goering and Montana Hemp Program Coordinator Andy Gray.

The new plan Gray submitted to the USDA does not adhere to the 15-day sampling window in the interim final rule, Gray said.

Other states had similar concerns about the regulatory burden that the USDA’s rules would place on their agriculture departments and have asked federal regulators to extend the 2014 pilot program through Dec. 31.