State ag departments, industry advocates ask USDA to delay new regulations

The National Industrial Hemp Council and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture say “many states will be unable to meet” the Oct. 31 deadline to switch to new rules for hemp production.

In a letter to Congress this week, the organizations asked that implementation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s interim final rule, which was published for review on October 2019, be delayed for another year. The groups also wrote to the USDA.

Some states were able to transition from their 2014 hemp pilot program to a USDA state approved plan to align with the new regulations that start Nov. 1, but other states that haven’t done so yet, the letter said.

“These states have cited that due to the unprecedented national COVID-19 pandemic, state regulators have been unable to work with their state legislatures to acquire necessary statutory amendments,” reads the letter signed by the leaders of NIHC and NASDA, which asks that the deadline be extended through fiscal year 2021.

At least 20 states, including Oregon, are still operating under the 2014 Farm Bill provisions, which established a pilot hemp program.

The hemp industry and state officials have raised a range of concerns they say still need to be addressed. Among those are:

  • The USDA’s requirement to use only DEA-registered labs to test hemp plants.
  • More disposal options for non-compliant crops.
  • Requiring growers to test plants within 15 days of anticipated harvest.