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USDA Reveals Long-Awaited Hemp Guidance

Source: The Hannah Report

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced the establishment of the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program, giving the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg) a regulatory framework to follow as the agency considers modifications to its initial draft hemp rules.

USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue said the program, as required by the 2018 Farm Bill, creates a consistent regulatory framework around hemp production throughout the U.S.

“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,” Perdue said in a news release. “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.”

“ODAg is pleased to see the establishment of the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program by the USDA.This creates a federal regulatory framework and provides guidelines as ODAg currently works through the process of establishing state rules regarding the hemp industry,” ODAg spokesperson Shelby Croft told Hannah News.

“ODAg is now reviewing the lengthy document for comparison to Ohio’s proposed hemp cultivation and processing rules to ensure they are in line with federal standards. Currently, ODAg is accepting public comment on the proposed rules until Wednesday, Oct. 30,” Croft said.

Later this week, USDA said, an interim final rule formalizing the program will be published in the Federal Register that will allow hemp to be grown under federally-approved plans and make hemp producers eligible for a number of agricultural programs. The rule includes provisions for the USDA to approve hemp production plans developed by states and Indian tribes including the following: requirements for maintaining information on the land where hemp is produced; testing the levels of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol; disposing of plants not meeting necessary requirements; and licensing requirements. It also establishes a federal plan for hemp producers in states or territories of Indian tribes that do not have their own approved hemp production plan.

The interim final rule becomes effective upon publication in the Federal Register. Following publication, USDA invites public comment on the interim rule and the information collection burden. A preview of the rule is posted on USDA’s website.

USDA also developed guidelines for sampling and testing procedures that are being issued concurrently with this rule. These documents provide additional information for sampling agents and hemp testing laboratories.

Once state and tribal plans are in place, hemp producers will be eligible for a number of USDA programs, including insurance coverage through Whole-Farm Revenue Protection.

ODAg’s proposed rule package would prohibit individuals from planting or growing hemp within 100 feet of any structure used for residential purposes. It would also prohibit individuals from handling or storing hemp plant material in any structure used for residential purposes. Additionally, ODAg has proposed prohibiting planting or growing hemp within 500 feet of a school or a public park, except for universities conducting research.

ODAg’s proposed cultivator fees include the following: $100 application fee; $500 annual license fee for each growing location; $250 fee for each GPS coordinate location change for each growing location; pre-harvest sample fees are $150; secondary pre-harvest fees are $300 and post-harvest retest fees are $300. The cultivator, site modification and testing fees are non-refundable.

Licensed cultivators would be responsible for “scouting and monitoring unused fields for volunteer cannabis plants and destroy those plants for three years past the last date of planting as reported to the department. Failure to control volunteers may result in the department's taking enforcement action against the cultivator’s license including eradicating these plants and invoicing the licensee for all costs associated with the destruction.”

ODAg’s proposed hemp processor fees include the following: $100 for each license application; each annual license fee is $500 for processing the raw grain component of hemp for each processing site; $500 annual license for processing the raw fiber component of hemp for each site; and $3,000 annual license fee for processing the raw floral component of hemp for each processing site.

The annual license fee for processors using cannabinoids in human and animal food, dietary supplements, cosmetics and personal care products for each processing site is $500 for wholesale production and $250 for retail production.

“All samples taken pursuant to this chapter shall be taken free of charge for testing conducted by the department. The samples become the property of the department and are non-refundable. The fees established in this chapter are non-refundable,” the rule states. “Representatives of the department shall be provided with complete and unrestricted access to all hemp and other cannabis plants, and all land, buildings and other structures used for the processing, handling and storage of all hemp and other cannabis plants; and all locations listed in the license application.

ODAg’s proposed rules would also require products containing cannabinoids to have a label encouraging consumers to consult a licensed health care professional if pregnant, breastfeeding, taking other medications or under 18 years old. “This statement shall appear prominently and conspicuously as compared to the other words, statements or designs on the information panel of the immediate container label, but in no case may the letters be less than one-sixteenths of an inch in height.”

Story originally published in The Hannah Report on October 29, 2019.  Copyright 2019 Hannah News Service, Inc.

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