Ag Policy Blog

Proposed Changes to USDA's Hemp Testing Plans

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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Hemp from a crop in Colorado. Most states and some farm groups have proposed USDA make significant changes to its proposed testing protocols for hemp. (DTN file photo by Chris Clayton)

USDA was expected on Thursday to provide some updated details on programs available for hemp producers but the department has now delayed that announcement until next Tuesday.

USDA's delay comes as more groups and states have weighed in calling on the department to modify its rules for the production and harvest of hemp.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture, which did not allow hemp production in the state in 2019, responded to USDA's interim rule on Thursday asking the department to revise its sampling timeline and expand the range of allowed tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) from .5% to as much as 2% before the crop would have to be destroyed.

Mike Naig, Iowa's secretary of Agriculture, said his department is fielding more questions every day about hemp production.

"Producers are interested in purchasing hemp seed and obtaining a license in time for the 2020 growing season,” Naig said. “There are some uncertainties and inconsistencies in the federal regulatory framework and those issues need to be addressed. There must be a uniform and predictable set of standards for hemp producers and regulators across the country so growers have the opportunity to be successful.”

Iowa also requested USDA expand the sampling testing timeline from 15 days before harvest to 21 days. Rather than requiring testing at a DEA-certified lab, Iowa proposed requiring official testing at labs that are ISO-17025 accredited.

The comment period for USDA's interim final rule ended on Wednesday. The rule received 4,646 comments on the federal rule website,…

In a news release on Wednesday, the American Farm Bureau Federation stated that testing rules need to be improved and the testing timeline expanded. More clarity also is needed around transportation of hemp as well. AFBF delegates earlier this month voted in its policy session to expand allowable THC up to 1%. Further, rather than just testing the flowers on the plant, AFBF proposes USDA consider allowing THC testing of the whole plant -- the flower, leaf and stem -- and average the testing score together. Going beyond the 21 days proposed by Iowa for testing timeframe, AFBF wants to see that expanded to 45 days.

Farm Bureau also noted that there are only 44 DEA-certified labs in 22 states "to serve hundreds of hemp farmers" which leads many to believe "testing delays and backlogs are inevitable." Other states already use private labs with third-party certifications that typically meet international performance standards, AFBF pointed out, much like the ISO recommendations from Iowa. Farm Bureau's comments can be viewed at…

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, which represents ag directors in all states, also sent comments to USDA this week calling for flexibility in the rules. NASDA calls for extending the testing period from 15 days to 30 days of harvest, and dropping the requirement that states use a DEA-registered lab. Like Farm Bureau, NASDA proposes setting the negligence level at 1% and allow states to develop mitigation plans. Further, states should be able to work with their own law enforcement, rather than DEA, to oversee disposal of hemp that tests hot. NASDA also recommends a "tier-based approach" to sampling and testing that would allow for more flexibility by state regulators. And NASDA calls for USDA to remove the crop reporting requirements for hemp in the rule as well.…

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