USDA: Hemp Rules “A Couple Of Weeks” Away

USDA hemp rules
Image: TinaKru

The US hemp industry is eagerly awaiting rules being developed by the USDA – and they may not be far off.

After hemp was legalised in the 2018 Farm Bill, the USDA was charged with the task of creating rules and developing a system in which states can submit plans for administering hemp production in their jurisdictions to the USDA for approval. A number of states have already drawn up plans, but the USDA will not being reviewing these until its regulations go into effect. Some states also need guidance on developing their plans and need the regulations in order to do so.

It was USDA’s goal to have regulations in effect by fall of this year, but they are still being developed. The good news is they may not be far away.

Iowa Senator Joni K. Ernst was keen to pin the USDA down on a date and asked the question at a recent Senate Agriculture Committee meeting.

“Do you know when we can expect the USDA to release the plans for public comment?”, asked Senator Ernst.

“We would expect to be issuing the interim final rule here within the next couple of weeks,” replied USDA Deputy Secretary Stephen Censky. Given the meeting was last week, this means it may be available as early as late next week.

Mr. Censky said USDA had been in the inter-agency clearance process for over 90 days and the Department was nearing the end of the process.

In May this year, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed a bill into law allowing Iowa farmers to legally grow industrial hemp. Hemp cultivation is now legal in most US states; with only Idaho, South Dakota, Mississippi and New Hampshire yet to enact legislation.

Currently, state programs need to work under the 2014 Farm Bill provisions for hemp. However, that becomes a problem for states that only have legislation based on the 2018 Farm Bill – they’ll be stuck until the regulations are provided.

Once the regulations are in place and states start submitting plans, the USDA will have 60 days to review and approve each plan. One of the first cabs off the rank is Kentucky, which submitted its plan within hours of the 2018 Farm Bill being signed by President Donald Trump.

The USDA is going to be very busy on the hemp front for some time to come.