Will hemp farmers have seed for 2019? USDA issues new guidance

Image of hempseed

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has stepped in to assist hemp producers and exporters to bring hempseed to the United States now that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is not involved.

In addition to the 2018 Farm Bill removing hemp and its derived products from the U.S. Controlled Substances list, the measure removed DEA authority to require hempseed permits for import.

So, the hemp industry asked for help from the USDA, which now regulates hempseed importation to ensure safe agricultural trade.

‘Millions at stake’

The stakes are high for hemp growers, considering that most seed is imported from foreign suppliers, said Geoff Whaling, chairman of the National Hemp Association (NHA).

“Over the last four years, every single major seed-exporting nation – Canada, France, Holland, Italy, Greece, the Soviet Union – has required every single purchase and export to be associated with a DEA permit number,” Whaling told Hemp Industry Daily.

“Since the DEA refuses to update its guidance, these countries are asking us what to do.”

With farmers across the United States clamoring to grow the now-legal hemp crop, farmers need to import seed because there isn’t a large enough supply in the country.

This oversight could have jeopardized the season, according to Whaling.

“There’s millions of dollars of seed at stake right now,” he said.

With planting season looming, Whaling said farmers could still see a shortage because of the high demand for seed.

“Everyone is so excited about hemp that I’m afraid it will have a negative impact if people can’t get the seed,” Whaling said.

“And if they do and it’s going to be late, when it turns out to not be the perfect crop, they may not want to grow it again.”

USDA’s seed import guidance

The permit previously required by the DEA and Customs and Border Patrol for importing a scheduled substance is no longer necessary.

In an advisory from the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, the agency issued the following rules for importing hempseed:

  • Seeds imported from Canada must be accompanied by either a phytosanitary certification from Canada’s national plant protection organization to verify the origin of the seed and confirm that no plant pests are detected, or by a Federal Seed Analysis Certificate (SAC, PPQ Form 925).
  • Seeds imported from countries other than Canada must be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate from the exporting country’s national plant protection organization to verify the origin of the seed and confirm that no plant pests are detected.
  • Shipments may be inspected upon arrival at the first port of entry by Customs and Border Protection to ensure USDA regulations are met, including certification and freedom from plant pests.

Questions or requests for additional USDA information regarding hemp to farmbill.hemp@usda.gov and reference the USDA-AMS website for current industrial hemp production information.

Laura Drotleff can be reached at laurad@staging-hempindustrydaily.kinsta.cloud