Both historically, and more recently as prohibition has been lifted, Kentucky has played an outsized role in the development of the nation’s hemp industry. From 19th century hemp farmer/US House Speaker Henry Clay to today’s political leaders, such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and U.S. Reps. James Comer and Thomas Massie, Kentuckians have served as national leaders in legalizing, cultivating and commercializing the crop.
Today, a significant step was taken by Kentucky’s Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles: Quarles announced this morning that Kentucky would NOT be submitting a hemp plan for USDA approval under the agency’s Interim Final Rule (IFR), but rather would continue to operate its program under the 2014 Farm Bill authorization. Just as with the concerns we shared here (and in our private meetings with USDA leadership), Quarles recognized that many outstanding issues remain regarding the IFR, and that these issues that are not likely to be resolved before planting season begins. Instead, the Department will share its recommendations with the USDA as it develops a final rule, hopefully in time for the 2021 growing season.
We imagine that other states will follow Kentucky’s lead and operate under the 2014 Farm Bill authorization as the USDA listens to stakeholders and the public as it designs its Final Rule. This would make a strong statement that the IFR needs a substantial overhaul, and given the laudable public outreach conducted by the USDA, we are confident that the agency will listen and respond.
Hemp Supporters, that’s your cue…
If you haven’t yet submitted comments to the USDA about its Interim Final Rule, the deadline is next week, January 29. You can submit your comments here. And please feel free to echo any of the comments the Roundtable made, which are available here.
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