SBA urges USDA to extend new hemp production comment period to 60 days

A federal agency is urging agriculture officials to allow more time for public comment for proposed national hemp production rules.

The Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy sent a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Friday, saying that 30 days the U.S. Department of Agriculture has allowed for public comment on the interim final rules for hemp production – a framework of rules the agency set based on the 2018 Farm Bill – is not enough time.

The SBA urged Perdue to extend the comment period to 60 days, Marijuana Moment first reported.

The USDA reopened the public comment period for the 2018 Farm Bill interim final rules for hemp production in early September, giving hemp advocates hope that the 30-day process would delay implementation of the national hemp rules.

The letter stated that the SBA had heard from hemp producers in several states, who were concerned about the length and time of the public period.

With harvest season approaching, or already upon many growers, the SBA said that “places a strain on their ability to both manage their small business and dedicate the time and attention necessary to provide the detailed comments” needed for the interim final rules.

The SBA claims that it would be prudent for the USDA to wait until the end of the harvest period to allow producers a “clear picture of how the process works from start to finish and provide complete information about costs, production yield and overall revenue.”

The coronavirus pandemic and various natural disasters nationwide have also presented challenges to agricultural operations, the SBA said.

“Producers are experiencing delays in shipping and transport, labor challenges and difficulty in managing familial obligations coupled with farming,” the SBA stated.

The letter comes after multiple requests from state and national lawmakers urging the USDA to extend the 2014 pilot hemp program.