USDA suggests farmers pay hemp-promotions fee, offers no more details on rule changes

The hemp at Triple C Farms near Sisters, Oregon, has recovered from a damaging August hailstorm. (Photo by Matt Cyrus)

The agency setting baseline national minimums for hemp production says growers should tax themselves to promote the new crop.

A top official with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Heather Pichelman, said Monday in the agency’s first address to hemp growers since releasing national regulations that the industry “has clearly shown interest” in paying fees to promote hemp.

“The idea here is that a rising tide lifts all boats,” she said.

Pichelman also pleaded with the farmers to weigh in on the USDA’s rules published last week, though she  gave no details about any possible changes to the agency would consider or when.

“It is incredibly important that USDA hears from you now that this rule is out to hear your voice, to hear the things that you agree with and to hear about the things that you think need reconsideration,” Pichelman said.

The remarks came less than a week after the USDA dropped 161 pages of production rules outlining who can grow hemp and how it is to be tested for THC content.

The rules give states minimum requirements to regulate hemp going into the 2020 growing season.

Heather Pichelman of the USDA.

Pichelman said up front during her talk at the Hemp Industries Association annual conference in Charlotte, North Carolina, that she would not answer questions about the new rules or discuss how they will work.

Instead, Pichelman reiterated the agency’s intent to help farmers market the new crop.

One of the opportunities opened up to the hemp industry upon publication of the regulations is the potential for a national research and marketing program under the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) – also known as a checkoff program.

Pichelman, who leads a promotions division in the agency, did urge hemp industry members to submit comments to the USDA before Dec. 30.

“If you have a question, please share it. USDA may understand. …USDA may need further understanding, but please know, USDA is listening.”

“We take those comments seriously. We read those comments. … Let us hear your voice; let us know how (the rule) affects you. The more substance, the better, so we can really understand.”

She said industry members can contact her as a liaison if they have any difficulty with the comment period or need to contact someone within the department.

The AMS currently oversees promotion orders for 21 different agricultural industries. Some of the agency’s promotions include those for Haas avocados and blueberries as well as the famed “Got Milk?” campaign.

Federal marketing programs, once in place, are mandatory assessments for anyone in the industry who is deemed responsible to pay for it.

But the agency will not institute a checkoff tax unless stakeholders at all levels of the supply chain are in favor of it, she said.

“I’m here today talking about this because the hemp industry has clearly shown interest in a national research and promotion program,” Pichelman said.

The AMS begins a promotion by talking with industry stakeholders, then developing a proposal and opening a public comment period.

The program offers flexibility for setting up the parameters of a research and promotion plan, including how much is assessed per unit and what the unit will be that is assessed. The program can also assess at different levels of the supply chain.

For more information about the hemp rules and promotions, click here.

Laura Drotleff can be reached at [email protected]

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11 comments on “USDA suggests farmers pay hemp-promotions fee, offers no more details on rule changes
    • Tammy Barkhurst on

      We have been cattle producers since 1887. The beef checkoff is the ABSOLUTE worst thing the beef industry ever did to us producers. Required by law that we pay per head, and millions of dollars go to national organizations that work AGAINST us, instead, promoting foreign imports and fake meat.
      Please Hemp Industry, learn from those that have gone before you, DO NOT, under any circumstances, fall for the false narrative from the USDA–we’re the gov and we are here to help.

      Reply
      • rico on

        Spot on comment! We need to recognize that ALL government ideas DO damage to a market. The best you can hope for is MINIMAL damage… but damage nonetheless.

        Reply
  1. Roland Shytle on

    The whole purpose of federal regulations to control market share. Protecting the public from themselves is the oldest lie ever told.

    The USDA and the FDA only serve the interest of big business and the last thing that Big Pharma CEOs want is for “their” profits to be made by farmers. If they get their way, they will bankrupt those who have invested everything into hemp farming, then they will come buy up all the land for pennies on the dollar and then hire foreigners to farm “their” corporate GMO hemp farms and make huge profits by selling CBD oil as prescription drugs.

    What’s needed is a unified written response to USDA which can be copied and pasted and used by thousands to push back on the USDA during the 60 day public comment period. The online public “blowback” to these new regs should be like a convey of Mac Trucks converging from all across “fly over country” and slamming into the federal USDA building at 95 mph! They need to be bitch slapped into reality by “we the people”.

    These federal institutions have held this cash crop hostage for decades. And we have never had a better opportunity to push back. We can beat this the same way the legal Kratom business community pushed back the DEA proposal for a federal ban during the public comment period. That was a huge success and proves it can be done particularly with a far larger public grassroots behind cannabis.

    If farmers don’t speak up now, it’s over. It’s time to flip the tables on the corporate “money changers.”

    Reply
  2. Terry on

    I applaud the sampling techniques top 1/3 of plant. The number of required samples will be cumbersome and expensive to enforce per “lot”.
    Sampling all grows and a 15 day timeframe will be impossible to enforce. Common practice is to test test test and cut prior to going over the 0.3, God forbid MJ. This is typical and expected keep the stranglehold on hemp with unnecessary reporting and unrealistic requirements for farmers to comply with on any scale. For example what is the projected harvest date? With today’s new normal weather patterns exactly how many days from planting can these manage to be compliant genetics be grown? Zero breaks for true hemp by legal definition, AOSCA certified varieties, after all these years of bad decisions isn’t it about time to say enough is enough? Is “hot hemp” a problem to society?
    At least the USDA addressed margins of error for different lab instruments.

    Reply
  3. Jenine Wondrasek on

    you all are greedy plain and simple you should be ashamed even contemplating this get out people DONTwant you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  4. Corey Lurtz on

    The hemp industry doesn’t need a checkoff program to promote itself. All that is needed from the government are concrete guidelines so people know what they can and cannot do in this industry. This is just another way for the government to siphon more money from small businesses and farmers.

    Reply
  5. Jim on

    Canada’s hemp program failed because of federal government shooting down CBD. Trump made hemp happen. Now Canada is blowing up the international MJ market. Trump just nominated a cancer specialist to lead DEA. Trump’s a business minded man; national legalization/recreational use of the cannabis plant is around the corner and hopefully with that in mind, this jaw dropping, mind boggling “pay us, a higher tide lifts all boats” idea will stop in it’s tracks while the money grubbers slither back into their holes. They have suppressed the plant for so long. Foot’s in the door with hemp, let’s not let these vipers ever close the door. How can they? They’re chasing their tails trying to figure testing… let’s legalize and save them the brain calories. 2020. Also, CBD is currently argued as snake oil. Perhaps .3 THC federal restrictions are making that claim legit… let’s conduct our research on CBD and it’s medical benefits, with plants that have matured… We dont pluck green oranges do we?

    Reply

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