For many U.S. farmers, the 2018 Farm Bill was a godsend. The legislation made cultivating industrial hemp legal after more than sixty years of prohibition, finally giving them the green light to grow the profitable crop.
Extremely versatile in application, the market boom that soon followed the legislation was almost a guarantee. Hemp extract cannabidiol (CBD) accounted for a large percentage of hemp’s massive popularity. The compound is a potent medicine, able to work against a variety of ailments including anxiety, chronic pain and high blood pressure.
There’s even an FDA approved drug made from CBD that’s used to treat seizures in rare pediatric epilepsies.
However, the market for hemp grew too quickly for authorities to properly regulate it. Thousands of untested products claiming untold medical benefits were the norm. On top of that, growers were denied essential services by banks and insurance providers who feared running afoul of some law.
So when the U.S. Department of Agriculture released its interim final rule on hemp, players in the sector thought they’d finally gotten a reprieve from a wild and unregulated industry. However, it’s quickly emerging that a lot of the new rules laid out by the USDA are a little too tough on the growers.
Recently, the USDA extended the comment period on the hemp rules, giving growers more time to air their honest opinions about the USDA’s interim final rule. Scott Propheter, Vice President of Agronomy and Outreach a Criticality, a North Carolina-based hemp and CBD producer, urges growers to reach out to state agriculture departments and Congress.
“The USDA is going to be working directly with state regulatory bodies on this, so the more growers get involved with their state departments of agriculture, the better off we’re going to be.”
According to Propheter, the USDA doesn’t have the man hours to go through similar comments, so growers ought to make their feedback as unique as possible. He says that although it may seem that regulators are the enemy, they have a lot at stake too.
States will have to carry out the stringent regulations without any financial backing from the government. For instance, Propheter says, the 15 day sampling window must be enforced by state or local officials, and this may require them to hire more agents on their own dime.
“The testing needs to be addressed, both front the grower’s perspective and the regulator’s perspective,” he says, adding that the narrow testing window is an unrealistic burden without significant funding from the federal government.
Ben Marcus, co-owner of Sheepscot General Store and Farm, a farm and retailer in Whitefield, Maine, agrees that state regulators are invaluable for sharing federal insights. When he lost his bank account and insurance for growing hemp, he shared his ordeal on social media. He was swiftly contacted by Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree who put him in touch with Bill Richardson, leader of the Specialty Crops Program in the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service.
He encourages farmers in other parts of the country who might feel like their concerns are falling on deaf ears to reach out to their state lawmakers.
“These people work for us. We don’t work for them, they work for us. So use them.”
This change of strategy may be just what hemp companies like Green Hygienics Holdings Inc. (OTCQB: GRYN) and Sugarmade Inc. (OTCQB: SGMD) have been longing for to create real pressure that can cause change at the federal level.
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