The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced this week the approval of hemp production plans for two more states and three more Indian tribes.
The states to get the green light were South Carolina and West Virginia, making them the thirteenth and fourteenth states to gain approval. The tribe plans approved this week were for the Oglala Sioux Tribe, the Seneca Nation of Indians and the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians.
The total approved plans stood at 31 after the announcement. USDA says it is continuing to receive and review hemp production plans from states and tribes.
The South Carolina Department of Agriculture hadn’t mentioned anything about the approval at the time of writing, but a couple of weeks ago it announced it had made some modifications to the state’s hemp farming permit application process to allow farmers to navigate the process more easily in light of the COVID-19 situation. For example, the mandatory in-person orientation for hemp farming permit applicants was changed so it could be completed online. The deadline to apply for a hemp farming permit was March 31 – it will be interesting to see what sort of interest it generated.
The West Virginia Department of Agriculture was also quiet on the announcement.
The 2018 Farm Bill, which made hemp legal, directed USDA to develop a regulatory oversight program for domestic production of hemp and charged it with the task of approving hemp production plans submitted by states and Indian tribes. States and tribes are currently not compelled to operate under the 2018 Farm Bill at this point – they can still to choose to run programs under the provisions of the 2014 Farm Bill for this year only; and a number of states have chosen to do so.
The coronavirus situation has been having an impact on this season growing season, with Hemp Industry Daily recently reporting some producers have been scrambling to confirm their orders of hemp seed and young plants earlier than they otherwise may have. Thankfully food and agriculture are considered essential industries and this means hemp farmers shouldn’t be stopped from planting.
But for those states that are in the midst of sorting out licencing, regulatory and other related issues, there could be some delays as attention is increasingly turned to dealing with the fallout from COVID-19.