WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture has established a U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program and later this week will publish an interim final rule formalizing the program in the Federal Register, the agency said Oct. 29.
The rules will contain provisions for the U.S.D.A. to approve hemp production plans developed by states and Native American tribes, including requirements for maintaining information on land where hemp is produced, testing the levels of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (T.H.C.), disposing of plants not meeting necessary requirements, and licensing requirements. The rules establish a federal plan for hemp producers in states or territories of Native American tribes that do not have their own approved hemp production plan.
A draft of the interim final rule may be found here.
“At U.S.D.A., 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 Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “We have had teams operating with all-hands-on-deck to develop a regulatory framework that meets congressional intent while seeking to provide a fair, consistent and science-based process for states, tribes and individual producers who want to participate in this program.”
The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, also known as the farm bill, removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act when it was enacted into law in December 2018. Hemp in the United States now is defined as cannabis and cannabis derivatives that contain no more than 0.3% T.H.C. More than that amount means the substance is marijuana.
The food and beverage industry is waiting on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to introduce updated regulations on hemp. Currently the F.D.A.’s position is cannabidiol (C.B.D.), a hemp extract, cannot be used as an ingredient in a dietary supplements, food or beverages because it is an active ingredient in an F.D.A.-approved drug.
The U.S.D.A. estimated in 2019 in the United States there were 6,787 licenses for hemp production and 155,688 planted acres of hemp. Those numbers compare to 3,543 licenses and 77,844 planted acres in 2018.
The U.S.D.A. also cited estimates on hemp from the Hemp Business Journal. The publication forecast U.S. hemp product sales to surpass $1,800 million in 2022, which would compare to an estimate of slightly over $1,000 million in 2018. The Hemp Business Journal forecast C.B.D. sales to surpass $600 million in 2022, which would be up from a little under $200 million in 2017.
The U.S.D.A. is accepting public comment on the hemp production program and the interim final rule. Comments may be sent online at www.regulations.gov. Written comments may be sent to Docket Clerk, Marketing Order and Agreement Division, Specialty Crops Program, AMS, USDA, 1400 Independence Avenue SW, STOP 0237, Washington, DC 20250-0237. Comments may be sent by Fax to (202) 720-8938. All comments should reference the document number and the date and page number of the issue of the Federal Register.