The U.S. Department of Agriculture has unveiled eagerly anticipated draft regulations on how hemp production will be governed across the country.
The passage of the 2018 Farm Bill legalized the production of hemp in December, but the lack of a federal framework has hampered growth in the sector. Some producers have struggled to find banks that will accept their money and insurance companies that will work with them, for instance.
Now the USDA has published its interim rules, which cover where the crop can be grown, licensing protocols and THC testing standards. “At USDA, we are always excited when there are new economic opportunities for our farmers, and we hope the ability to grow hemp will pave the way for new products and markets,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue as he announced the framework.
This interim final rule will be published in the Federal Register on Thursday, heralding the start of a 60-day consultation period in which the public can submit comments. The USDA will then finalize the rules and begin evaluating regulation plans laid down by individual states and tribes.
If a state or tribe wants to have primary regulatory authority over hemp production, it can submit such a plan to Perdue for his approval. It cannot proceed without gaining USDA approval.
The CBD market has experienced significant growth since the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, but many in the industry have lamented the lack of uniformity around product standards. Nebraska has decided it can prohibit hemp-derived CBD via its criminal definition of marijuana, while Iowa has refused to permit sales of hemp-derived CBD products until the USDA publishes its final regulations.
Trade bodies and producers welcome the clarity this draft framework will provide. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a long-standing proponent of hemp legalization, said he was pleased to see it move closer to being treated just like every other commodity, and said the regulations will help farmers around the country continue pioneering crop into 21st century.
Sen. Ron Wyden, another supporter, was equally excited. “I’ve long said that if you can make and sell hemp products in America, you should be able to grow hemp in America,” he said.