Key US senator wants USDA to extend hemp rule comment period

The top Democratic official in the U.S. Senate is calling on federal agriculture regulators to allow more time for hemp industry stakeholders to have their voices heard regarding hemp production regulations.

Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York sent a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to extend the public comment period for the interim final rule for hemp production by 60 days so growers and producer have ample time to submit comments to help guide the best possible final rule for establishing the federal hemp production program.

“When it comes to an industry as promising as industrial hemp … the feds need to get it right the first time and not rush to any reckless regulatory decisions,” Schumer said in a news release.

Schumer, who was a bipartisan backer of the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, said he is worried the 60-day comment period is not adequate because there are such serious concerns about certain provisions under the proposed rule.

The rule was published on the Federal Register on Oct. 31, thus beginning a 60-day comment period that ends Dec. 30.

“Regulating this rapidly emerging industry is a must, but any rules must be part of a well-thought-out process that carefully considers the needs of all stakeholders – from farmers and growers to producers and manufacturers,” Schumer said.

Specifically, he said hemp industry members have expressed concerns about:

  • The tight time frame for sampling and testing hemp.
  • The lack of available laboratories where testing is required to take place.
  • The guidelines for THC testing and the restrictiveness for retesting if the threshold for THC exceeds allowable levels.

Schumer said a “meaningful part” of the hemp industry’s concerns must be integrated into the final rule.

“It is incumbent on USDA, the chief agricultural regulators in the United States, to hear them out and make improvements to the final regulations that are balanced and smart,” Schumer said.

Sen. Schumer’s letter to the USDA is available here.