By: Nabil Rodriguez* and
On March 13, 2019, the United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) Specialty Crops Program held the first planned listening webinar to solicit public comment on the implementation of the 2018 Farm Bill as it pertains to hemp. Representatives from across the nation and beyond were in attendance via the online meeting, including several tribal nations, legal representatives, state agricultural departments, laboratory testing leaders and scientists, farmers, product manufacturers, and industry organizations. Approximately 50 speakers voiced comments on what they believed to be the most prominent and immediate questions and challenges that the USDA must address when creating the Domestic Hemp Production Program guidance and regulations. Two representatives from Greenspoon Marder,
Jessica Wasserman and Nabil Rodriguez, participated in the session.
Many of the speakers’ comments had general reoccurring themes, including the need for guidance regarding uniformity of testing and sampling procedures and certification of testing facilities, guidance on the certification of hemp and the need to address transport and interstate commerce issues, issues relating to banking and crop insurance, uniform destruction protocols and licensing standards, and the need for immediate guidance for the interim period leading up to official program implementation. Some of the more nuanced suggestions included permitting a higher THC content percentage for different forms of hemp, and eliminating the requirement for license background checks since hemp is no longer a controlled substance. Several speakers noted the importance of fairness and maintaining a level playing field for participants, an issue of concern because state and tribal laws and hemp programs may differ.
The USDA representatives were firm in stating that the main goal of the webinar was to assist them in their promulgation of regulations. The USDA intends to publish guidance and regulations by the end of 2019, to be implemented in time for the 2020 growing season.
*Nabil Rodriguez is not an attorney