USDA Extends Public Comment Period For Hemp Rule (Again)

Hemp rule - USDA
Image: Matteo Paganelli

The USDA’s controversial Interim Final Rule for hemp is getting another extension for public comment – an additional 30 days.

Late last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it was reopening the comment period for the interim final rule published back in October last year that established the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program.

While it is welcoming further comment on any aspect of the rule, USDA is particularly interested in feedback on a number of specific topics including:

  • Measurement of Uncertainty for Sampling
  • Disposal and Remediation of Non-Compliant Plants
  • Negligence
  • 15-day Harvest Window
  • Sampling Methodology – Flower vs. Whole Plant
  • DEA Laboratory Registration

There have been increasing calls for a delay of final implementation of the rule given some of the thorny issues that remain, including related to the points above.

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The reopening will provide an additional 30 days for interested persons to comment on the IFR, with the comment period closing on Oct. 8, 2020.  USDA notes those who submitted comments during initial sixty day public comment period between October 31, 2019 and December 30, 2019 or the subsequent extension period between December 31, 2019 and January 29, 2020 don’t need to resubmit as those contributions are already part of the public record.

Approximately 4,600 comments were received during the initial ninety-day public comment period and no doubt many more will be added during this extension.

The full notice regarding the extension along with notes regarding specific points can be found here. For example, USDA acknowledges it has received significant feedback on the 15 day harvest window, which many felt is far too short. Under the IFR, a sample would need to be sent for THC testing within 15 days prior to harvesting as the longer hemp is in the ground, the higher its THC content will be. The feedback received has suggested a harvest window of 30 days to allow farmers sufficient time for harvesting activity.

Since publishing the interim final rule, the total number of USDA approved hemp plans stands at 58. The states to most recently get a green light are Maine and Missouri.