USDA – The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) manages food, agriculture, nutrition, natural resources, and rural development. It also develops and implements federal laws on farming, forestry, and food.
USDA Regulations for Hemp Production
The 2018 Farm Bill directs the USDA to regulate hemp production. It legalized the production of hemp and removed it from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Schedule of Controlled Substances.
Under the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp is Cannabis sativa L. with delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels of 0.3 percent or less in dry weight. THC is intoxicating, and cannabis with more than 0.3 percent THC levels is called marijuana. Importantly, marijuana is still a Schedule I controlled substance regulated by the DEA under the CSA.
The USDA also regulates hemp seed import to ensure safe agricultural trade. Hemp seeds from other countries should accompany a phytosanitary certification from the country’s national plant protection body. This documentation verifies the seed’s origin and confirms that no pests are present in the seed.
A farmer wishing to grow hemp must acquire licensing under a state, tribal, or USDA hemp program. A state or tribe can also request primary regulatory oversight by submitting a plan to regulate and monitor hemp production to USDA.
USDA regulates hemp production in states that do not have their own approved plans. Farmers in states that have not legalized hemp production cannot grow hemp within their borders.
The USDA issues license to growers upon approval. The USDA will deny a hemp production license to anyone convicted of a felony related to a controlled substance in the last ten years. In case an application is denied, an applicant will receive a notification letter or email specifying the reason for the denial.
Licensed farmers must submit regular reports to their land information and their hemp crop acreage to the Farm Service Agency.
The USDA also conducts random audits of licensees to ensure that they grow hemp under The Rule, and can issue corrective action plans for negligent violations. Grower negligence can lead to suspension or revocation of the producer’s license. Negligent violations are not subject to criminal enforcement. However, a producer who commits negligent violations three times in five years will be ineligible to produce hemp for five years. When a USDA agent visits a licensees’ facility, the licensee must provide access to any fields, storage facilities, greenhouses, or any other facilities the grower produces hemp. Producers must maintain copies of all records and reports to demonstrate compliance with the United States Department of Agriculture Domestic Hemp Production Program.
Sampling and Testing
The USDA requires farmers to test hemp crop samples for THC levels. State, federal, or local law enforcement agent authorized by the USDA must collect the samples, while the grower pays any fees associated with sampling. Next, authorized laboratory technicians will measure the total THC concentration in the samples on a dry-weight basis. An authorized agent will dispose of hemp plants exceeding the acceptable hemp THC level, and the licensed producer must document the disposal of all marijuana. Hemp also produced in violation (such as hemp produced without a license or hemp produced on a property not disclosed) have the same disposal provisions as hemp exceeding the acceptable THC levels.
USDA rules reaffirm that states that have not legalized hemp production may not interfere with hemp’s interstate transportation. The rules set in place by USDA has enabled other agencies such as crop insurance providers and financial institution to establish their guidelines in dealing with hemp production.
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