Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) is joining several of his colleagues in calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to delay the implementation of proposed hemp rules, citing concerns about certain restrictive policies the federal agency has put forward in an interim proposal.
The senator sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Tuesday, urging the department to hold off on a final rule until it is able to consult with stakeholders and state regulators “to ensure workable rules that allow the industry to thrive.”
“The United States is now poised to transition from being a world-leading hemp importer to a world-leading hemp producer,” Gardner wrote. “I have worked with my colleagues and state officials to share with the USDA Colorado’s hemp experience, encourage greater flexibility for farmers, and encourage innovation of the industry.”
“I appreciate your leadership to the nation’s farmers throughout this extraordinary challenging time. Given these challenges, it is hard to overlook the great promise that the industrial hemp industry could provide to farmers if regulation is done in the proper manner. I encourage you to delay the final implementation of the [interim final rule] and work directly with state regulators and the industry to ensure workable rules that allow the industry to thrive.”
While Gardner didn’t specify which proposed regulations he views as inflexible and problematic, industry representatives have generally expressed concerns about requirements that labs that test hemp be registered with the Drug Enforcement Administration and that law enforcement be involved in disposal of the crop if it contains excess THC, among other issues.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) earlier this month wrote to Perdue, similarly asking that USDA delay issuing final regulations for the crop until 2022 and allowing states to continue operating under the 2014 Farm Bill hemp pilot program in the meantime.
As it stands, the earlier pilot program is set to expire on October 31. The minority leader isn’t alone in requesting an extension, as state agriculture departments and a major hemp industry group made a similar request to both Congress and USDA this month.
Two senators representing Oregon recently expressed concerns with the secretary that USDA appears positioned to reinstate the two aforementioned provisions of its interim final rule that stakeholders view as untenable.
As USDA works to finalize their regulations, which they intend to complete by October 2021, the department has been systematically approving hemp plans proposed by individual states, territories and tribes. The most recent approvals were for Maryland and the Lower Sioux Indian Community.
Six states that submitted hemp regulatory plans to USDA are being asked to make revisions and resubmit before they’re approved.
Read Gardner’s letter to Perdue on hemp regulations below:
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.