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USDA Seeks White House Permission For National Hemp Survey

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is requesting permission from the White House to conduct a survey of about 20,000 farmers to collect data on hemp production.

In a notice published in the Federal Register on Thursday, the department said it wants to launch an annual “Hemp Acreage and Production Survey,” and it’s soliciting public comment on whether the effort would be useful and how to most effectively administer it to minimize the burden on respondents.

This appears to be a follow up to a February notice USDA posted on its intent to request the survey from the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

It’s unclear at this point what information USDA would specifically be requesting about hemp, but the title—”Hemp Acreage and Production Survey”—indicates that it would help inform issues related to cultivation that the department oversees since the crop was federally legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill.

The notice explains that cannabis containing no more than 0.3 percent THC is federally legalized and hemp is “a commodity that can be used for numerous industrial and horticultural purposes including fabric, paper, construction materials, food products, cosmetics, production of cannabinoids (such as cannabidiol or CBD), and other products.”

“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.

Hemp businesses, including farms, would be involved in the survey, the notice states. It also estimates that the collective time that would be taken to complete the surveys would be 7,531 hours.

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 department said it wanted to learn about “current production costs, production practices, and marketing practices” for hemp.

This latest request for a new survey, for which public comments are due by August 16, comes months after USDA released its final rule on hemp.

There’s still much to learn about the burgeoning market, even as USDA continues to approve state regulatory plans for the crop. And while the final rule took 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 in February, 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 USDA under President Joe Biden’s administration 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) in February to serve on a federal trade advisory committee, told Marijuana Moment at the time.

USDA announced in April that it is teaming up with a chemical manufacturing company on a two-year project that could significantly expand the hemp-based cosmetics market.

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Photo courtesy of Brendan Cleak.

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