USDA announces timeframe for adopting hemp regulations

States and Indian tribes don’t need to submit their hemp plans to USDA until the agency adopts its regulations regarding production of the crop.

Josh Long, Associate editorial director, Natural Products Insider

February 28, 2019

3 Min Read
Montana now leads country in hemp acreage.jpg

USDA on Wednesday announced its plans to promulgate regulations in fall 2019 regarding the commercial production of industrial hemp in the United States.

Under the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018—otherwise known as the 2018 Farm Bill—states and Indian tribes have the option to primarily regulate the production of hemp. That’s provided USDA approves their plans. But states and Indian tribes don’t need to submit plans until the agency adopts its regulations, according to USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service in a notice to industry.

USDA will hold onto a submission if a state happens to submit a plan before the regulations are promulged. The notice proclaimed: “USDA is committed to completing its review of plans within 60 days once regulations are effective.”

At least one state acted immediately in response to the 2018 Farm Bill. The Kentucky Department of Agriculture submitted its regulatory plan for hemp production the same day President Donald Trump signed the bill.

“Kentucky is emerging as an epicenter for the American rapidly-growing hemp industry,” Ryan Quarles, Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, wrote in a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

For the 2019 planting season, states, tribes and institutions of higher education can continue operating under the 2014 Farm Bill, USDA said.

The 2014 Farm Bill authorized institutions of higher education and state agricultural departments to grow or cultivate industrial hemp under certain conditions. The scope of that bill—including whether it authorized commercial production and sale of hemp and hemp-based products—was long debated.

The 2018 legislation signed by Trump solved the dilemma. It removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act and treated it as an agricultural commodity, allowing farmers to grow the crop and marketers to sell hemp-based products without interference from the Drug Enforcement Administration.

“By removing hemp from the list of controlled substances and directing USDA to make hemp growers eligible to participate in federal farm programs on an equal footing with other crops, the new Farm Bill has laid the groundwork for full-scale commercialization of this promising crop,” Quarles wrote in his letter to Perdue.

He added, “I am particularly pleased that the Congress has recognized that state departments of agriculture, not federal agencies, can and should assume primary regulatory authority over hemp production within their jurisdictions.”

Vote Hemp, a nonprofit advocacy organization, met several weeks ago with USDA representatives regarding the upcoming rulemaking process.

“We are committed to ensuring that they [USDA representatives] are well informed about the potential of this crop as well as the need for limited regulation,” Vote Hemp wrote Wednesday in an email to its members. “We want USDA to treat hemp like other crops wherever possible. There are many aspects that must be figured out, including crop insurance, testing and how data will be shared between states/tribes and USDA.”

Among USDA’s obligations under the 2018 Farm Bill: establishing a plan to monitor and regulate the production of hemp in states or Indian tribes that do not have an approved state or tribal plan.

USDA plans to hold a webinar on March 13 regarding industrial hemp production, with more details forthcoming. The webinar will be open to the general public.

Editor’s note: For more retailer insights into building a successful store strategy around hemp CBD, three retailers—including Lucky’s Market—will be in a panel discussion at the Natural Products Hemp & CBD Summit at Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, California, on Tuesday, March 5. For sales data, market projections and solid insight into consumer perceptions of brands and positioning, check out the new 2019 Hemp & CBD Guide from Nutrition Business Journal.


About the Author(s)

Josh Long

Associate editorial director, Natural Products Insider, Informa Markets Health and Nutrition

Josh Long directs the online news, feature and op-ed coverage at Natural Products Insider, which targets the health and wellness industry. He has been reporting on developments in the dietary supplement industry for over a decade, with a focus on regulatory issues, including at the Food and Drug Administration.

He has moderated and/or presented at industry trade shows, including SupplySide East, SupplySide West, Natural Products Expo West, NBJ Summit and the annual Dietary Supplement Regulatory Summit.

Connect with Josh on LinkedIn and ping him with story ideas at [email protected]

Education and previous experience

Josh majored in journalism and graduated from Arizona State University the same year "Jake the Snake" Plummer led the Sun Devils to the Rose Bowl against the Ohio State Buckeyes. He also holds a J.D. from the University of Wyoming College of Law, was admitted in 2008 to practice law in the state of Colorado and spent a year clerking for a state district court judge.

Over more than a quarter century, he’s written on various topics for newspapers and business-to-business publications – from the Yavapai in Arizona and a controversial plan for a nuclear-waste incinerator in Idaho to nuanced issues, including FDA enforcement of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA).

Since the late 1990s, his articles have been published in a variety of media, including but not limited to, the Cape Cod Times (in Massachusetts), Sedona Red Rock News (in Arizona), Denver Post (in Colorado), Casper Star-Tribune (in Wyoming), now-defunct Jackson Hole Guide (in Wyoming), Colorado Lawyer (published by the Colorado Bar Association) and Nutrition Business Journal.

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