The (almost) year-long wait is over – at long last, the United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) issued its Interim Final Rule concerning the implementation of the hemp-related provisions of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (the “2018 Farm Bill”). This announcement marks an important step towards the realization of a streamlined domestic – and globalized – hemp industry.

Ever since Congress enacted the 2018 Farm Bill in December 2018, the hemp industry awaited further regulatory guidance from USDA to permanently establish hemp as a lawful agricultural crop within the United States. These regulations underscore the establishment of the foundation necessary to evolve the hemp industry from a nascent industry to an undeniable powerhouse. As of October 31, states can submit proposed state plans for USDA consideration within 60 days of submission, which will provide greater universality in regulation across the country for the 2020 planting season and beyond.

Our HLG team is in the midst of reviewing the lengthy 160+ pages of USDA guidance, but overall, the USDA regulations appear generally promising. Some highlights include:

  • Provides a 60-day public comment period (until December 30) and USDA anticipates establishing a final regulation within two years;
  • Establishes producer licensing requirements through USDA, or through state plans, which addresses licensing requirements, criminal background history, negligent versus intentional violations, information sharing and disposal among other topics;
  • Provides USDA will establish separate sampling and testing protocols;
  • Mandates testing procedures shall utilize total THC;
  • Test results shall provide a “measurement of uncertainty” (or margin of error);
  • The 2014 Farm Bill remains intact until late 2020, to allow for state plans to be fully and finally evaluated and approved by USDA;
  • Notes USDA does not currently address: (i) a seed certification program; (ii) the import and export of hemp; or (iii) further guidance concerning the import of viable hemp seeds.

Importantly, the Interim Final Rule provides interim USDA guidance, subject to USDA promulgating final regulations within 2 years, and provides for public comment for 60 days. For those with questions and/or concerns about the Interim Final Rule, now is the time to make your voice heard!

Make sure to connect with Hoban Law Group’s hemp regulatory team to discuss these USDA regulations and how they implicate your business plans for 2020 and beyond.

See the USDA’s full statement here.