In time for the 2020 planting season, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released details regarding the production and transportation of domestic industrial hemp. The official version of the rule will be published in the Federal Register on Thursday, October 31, 2019 and will be effective immediately. There will be a 60-day comment period ending December 30, 2019.
The 2018 Farm Bill directed USDA to establish a national regulatory framework for hemp production in the United States. The result is the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program, which outlines provisions for the Department to approve plans submitted by States and Indian Tribes for the domestic production of hemp. It also establishes a Federal plan for producers in States or territories of Indian tribes that do not have their own USDA-approved plan. There will be a 30-day waiting period for USDA to start licensing producers whose states do not have their own regulatory plans.
Although states can continue to ban production of the crop within their borders, they will no longer be allowed to stop the interstate shipment of hemp that is lawfully produced under the regulations. The stopping of hemp shipments by some states has been a primary area of concern for the re-emerging industrial hemp sector and it is hoped the final rule will remove it as a barrier to commerce.
The availability of risk management tools and access to USDA loan programs are also positive steps forward. Upon implementation of state and tribal plans, hemp producers will be eligible for a number of USDA programs.
Many industrial hemp producers will be eligible for the Non-insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program, as well as insurance coverage via whole farm revenue protection.
Excessive levels of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), however, will not be a covered loss under the whole farm policies.
Access to capital continues to be of primary concern to many producers. Under the rule, the USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) will be able to offer operating, ownership and on-farm storage loans for next year.
The rule includes procedures for tracking the land where hemp is grown, the disposal of non-compliant plants, testing protocols for concentration levels of THC, and procedures for sharing information with law enforcement.
In addition, USDA is releasing guidelines with specific steps for sampling and testing hemp for THC which will provide information for inspectors and hemp-testing laboratories.