USA Hemp Pilot Program Extended

Hemp pilot extension
Image: TinaKru

An extension of the USA’s hemp pilot program through September of 2021 was welcomed by many industry participants.

After passage of the 2018 Farm Bill that saw hemp no longer a Controlled Substance, states had a deadline of October 31, 2020 to submit final plans to the USDA for approval as the pilot program in place since the 2014 Farm Bill was signed into law was set to expire at the end of this month.

But a House of Representatives funding bill introduced late last month included an extension of the USA’s 2014 hemp pilot program until September 30 next year. This resulted from ongoing pressure from various corners insisting it was becoming increasingly difficult due to COVID-19 for states to prepare plans to be submitted to the USDA for approval before the pilot program expiration; not to mention some ongoing thorny issues in the new rules that still need attention.

The funding bill containing the extension was subsequently endorsed by the Senate, and then signed by President Trump last Thursday.

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What this means is states now have a choice – to continue under the pilot until the end of September 2021, or under the Interim Final Rule assuming a plan has been approved by the USDA.

Among the groups calling for an extension was the National Industrial Hemp Council.

“We’re thankful for both the House and the Senate for listening to us back in August when we wrote about the importance of this program,” said NIHC Board Chairman Patrick Atagi last week. “Hemp is bipartisan issue and that’s why Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) both expressed an interest in extending this program.”

Not everyone was happy though. Some industry participants were angry about having put in the effort and expense to comply with the new rules – which are stricter than those for the pilot – and said they were now at a disadvantage for having done so; particularly in relation to cultivating high-CBD hemp.

As for the problematic aspects of the Interim Final Rule, another extension for public comment kicked off last month – an additional 30 days. The comment period closes this week, on October 8.