USDA, congresswoman to discuss hemp rules and challenges with Maine farmers

(Update: The roundtable, originally set for Dec. 2, was rescheduled to Dec. 16.)

Hemp farmers in Maine are getting an opportunity to discuss the new hemp regulations with a representative of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) thanks to a member of Congress who nudged the agency to get the rules out.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree is playing host to a roundtable Monday at a Maine farm where the owners lost their insurance policy and bank accounts earlier this year because of federal uncertainty about hemp.

During the two-hour event, Pingree will seek feedback from hemp growers and state regulators in Maine to inform her comments for the USDA’s formal public comment period that ends Dec. 30.

The meeting will be held at Sheepscot General Store and Farm in Whitefield, owned by Ben and Taryn Marcus. The farmers started a pick-your-own-hemp model in the fall but then lost their accounts, which attracted the congresswoman’s attention.

Pingree used the farm’s example in co-sponsoring the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which passed the U.S. House with bipartisan support and currently awaits action in the Senate.

In addition to Pingree and hemp farmers, the meeting Monday will include representatives from the office of Maine Rep. Jared Golden, also a Democrat, as well as a USDA representative who was not identified.

Pingree and Golden, both Democrats, sent a joint letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in October urging him to release the hemp regulations.