The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced on Wednesday that hemp cultivators can officially apply for intellectual property protection for seed-propagated hemp, making the newly legal crop part of an existing program.
The move will cover certain hemp types for 20 years, allowing farmers to prohibit others from marketing their variety of the plant.
USDA’s Plant Variety Protection Office “provides intellectual property protection to breeders of new varieties of seeds and tubers,” the department said in a bulletin. “Certificate owners have rights to exclude others from marketing and selling their varieties, manage the use of their varieties by other breeders, and enjoy legal protection of their work.”
The Plant Variety Protection Office will start accepting applications of seed-propagated hemp for plant variety protection. For more information: https://t.co/5gabfTyV07
— USDA Ag Mktg Service (@USDA_AMS) April 24, 2019
Those interested in obtaining the exclusive protection can use the department’s electronic application filing system to submit or edit an application, pay fees and communicate with relevant USDA staff about the program.
The announcement is yet another development to come out of the federal legalization of industrial hemp through the 2018 Farm Bill. Once considered a controlled substance under federal law, the crop is now the regulatory responsibility of USDA and has been celebrated by Republicans like Senate Majority Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Democrats like Ron Wyden (D-OR) alike.
In fact, McConnell is so passionate about his role in lifting restrictions on hemp and its derivatives that he featured it in his reelection launch campaign video and paid a recent visit to a Kentucky hemp company.
USDA must still develop a regulatory framework for hemp before farmers can market the crop under the 2018 Farm Bill, but states can submit their plans in the meantime, as they will be the primary regulators.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has said that the department will not expedite the rulemaking process; however, the rules should be in place in time for the 2020 planting season, he said.
It seems that while the department continues to develop a broad regulatory framework, it is still actively chipping away at other former restrictions on hemp, by giving hemp farmers federal intellectual property rights, for instance.
USDA also recently clarified that hemp farmers can import seeds from Canada and other countries, noting that the Justice Department no longer controls the crop.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.