The USDA has come out with new regulations of industrial hemp. Economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation Michael Nepveux says there are still a lot of questions with industrial hemp but the new regulations bring much-needed clarity.
Testing & Sampling
In an interview on the national radio talk show, Adams on Agriculture, Nepveux said “One of the biggest takeaways from this, surrounds the standardize testing of the crop for its THC levels,”
Before the current rule, states had fluctuant standards on THC testing. “Some states had you test by cutting off the top 8 inches of the plant, some were top 6 inches, and some were a lot more. Some were that you could even test a few spots in a county and decide for the whole county. So it was all over the map.”
Nepveux says a beneficial aspect to the new regulation is that the USDA sets the testing and sampling rules as a separate document from the interim final rule “so as new technology becomes available they can update that document without going through a full-blown hearing process.”
The plant has to test below 0.3% THC on dry weight bases to be considered industrial hemp. In the new rule, the USDA addresses standard deviation. The crop is still considered industrial hemp if the test results come back within a range of around .3% THC. If test results reach an amount not considered industrial hemp, it is under the DEA’s control.
In the rule, the USDA acknowledges that there are factors out of farmer’s control that can affect THC levels. Some of those factors include weather and conservation practices. The USDA says as long as industrial hemp does not exceed THC levels of 0.5%, the producer can not be incriminated. Although “If you go above that you have to do it 3-5 years before they step in and say you can’t grow hemp anymore.”
There are lots of risks that come along with growing industrial hemp. Under the new rule, producers need to have field THC levels tested 15 days before the anticipated harvest. This is one area Nepveux says is unclear. He says producers may run the risk of sending in their samples on time but not getting results back from backlogged labs within those 15 days. That is an area the USDA is asking for feedback.
Hemp producers are eligible for crop insurance for the 2020 growing year under the Whole Farm Revenue Protection Plan, which has several crops you can grow under that but there is no specific plan for hemp yet, says Nepveux. If the crop becomes a ‘hot crop’ or above the required THC levels, it will not be considered an insurable crop.