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USDA Seeks Information From 20,000 Hemp Farmers On Production Practices

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is looking to collect additional data on hemp production from tens of thousands of farmers and ranchers.

In a notice published in the Federal Register, the agency said that it’s requesting permission from the White House to “conduct a new information collection to gather data related to the production of hemp,” and a public comment period is now open on the necessity of the survey and best practices to get the information it seeks.

It’s not clear exactly what kind of data USDA wants at this point, but the notice states that it expects 20,000 responses and that it will take an average of 15 minutes for respondents to submit the data.

“In determining the type of data that would need to be collected and the frequency of the data collections, [USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service] management attended a joint meeting with representatives from the USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS), Farm Service Agency (FSA), Risk Management Agency (RMA), Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), and the Office of the Secretary,” it says.

Last year, USDA announced plans to distribute a separate national survey to gain insights from thousands of hemp businesses that could inform its approach to regulating the industry.

That survey is being completed in partnership with National Association of State Departments of Agriculture and the University of Kentucky. The agency said it wanted to learn about “current production costs, production practices, and marketing practices” for hemp.

But this latest request for a new “Hemp Acreage and Production Survey” comes shortly after USDA released its final rule on hemp, which was federally legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill.

There’s still much to learn about the burgeoning market, even as the agency continues to approve state regulatory plans for the crop. And while the final rule is set to take effect on March 22, it is evidently still interested in gathering information to further inform its regulatory approach.

Industry stakeholders says the release of the final rule is a positive step forward that will provide businesses with needed guidance, but they’ve also pointed to a number of policies that they hope to revise as the market matures such as USDA’s hemp testing requirements.

The federal Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy expressed a similar sentiment in a blog post last month, writing that it is “pleased with some of the changes that [USDA] has made to the rule, as they offer more certainty and are less burdensome to small farmers,” but “some concerns remained unaddressed in the final rule.”

Meanwhile, representatives of the new USDA under President Joe Biden’s administration also held their first meeting with hemp industry stakeholders in January to learn about the market’s needs.

The talk “went extremely well,” National Industrial Hemp Council board chair Patrick Atagi, who was appointed by USDA and the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) last month to serve on a federal trade advisory committee, told Marijuana Moment at the time.

Atagi added that the meeting was meant to make sure that the agency is up to speed as Biden’s pick for agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack, moved through the confirmation process. He was officially confirmed by the Senate last week.

Comments on the new USDA hemp survey plan are being accepted until April 26.

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Photo courtesy of Brendan Cleak.

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Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based senior editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

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