On Wednesday, Congress signed a stopgap budget that also included a last-minute delay in implementing new hemp rules by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The reprieve grants farmers in regions without approved programs a one-year extension to continue growing legal hemp under 2014 rules.
Barely a day after the bill was passed, some farmers with USDA approved hemp programs are complaining about double standards that the extension brings into farming hemp in the country. Noticeably, the 2014 regulations are deemed to be less strict than the newly drafted USDA regulations.
Earlier on, Patrick Atagi of the National Industrial Hemp Council said that hemp farmers will enjoy more certainty after the stop gap bill. Also, states will have more time to complete their plans and submit them to the FDA for approval.
In the new rules, farmers are supposed to test the THC levels in their crops just 15 days to the harvest date. All crops that will be found to be hot hemp are to be disposed of by the farmer. Many have argued that the new rules increase the likelihood of hemp farmers being charged with marijuana crimes.
Hemp consultant Pat Jack based in Louisiana, one of the states adhering to the stricter regulations, disagrees with Patrick’s sentiments as he pointed out that many farmers could face a production disadvantage come 2021. Farmers who have invested heavily to comply will be on the losing end while competing with those enjoying the reprieve.
So far, only 20 states have their hemp plans approved by the USDA. Almost half of the states in the country planted hemp this season under 2014 laws. If the deadline had passed without the stopgap budget bill, some farmers could have been barred from legally harvesting, processing, or selling their hemp planted this season.