June 28, 2023

Progress On 2023 Farm Bill Priorities For The Hemp Industry

In April, we proudly announced our collaboration with prominent organizations in the hemp industry, namely the Hemp Industries Association (HIA) and the National Industrial Hemp Council (NIHC), alongside Morris Beegle and We. Are. For. Better. Alternatives (WAFBA), on the development of essential policy priorities for the upcoming 2023 Farm Bill. 

After months of rigorous discussion and deliberation, we successfully finalized these priorities, gaining support from an impressive total of 31 state, regional, and national hemp organizations across the country. This remarkable milestone marks the first time since the resurgence of hemp that nonprofit advocacy groups across the nation have united in alignment on such a vast legislative initiative.

Building upon this achievement, the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, alongside HIA and NIHC leaders, took the initiative to promote these policy priorities directly to members of Congress during its Spring Fly-in to Washington D.C. in late April. We are thrilled to share the significant progress that has transpired since the initial announcement and subsequent promotion on Capitol Hill. This opportunity to engage with policymakers has been invaluable in raising awareness and garnering support for the hemp industry’s advancement.

By consolidating the collective efforts of diverse hemp organizations and presenting a unified front, the likelihood of these policy priorities gaining traction and influencing the development of the 2023 Farm Bill is considerably heightened. The impact of this collaboration and advocacy cannot be overstated, as it holds the potential to shape the future of hemp-related policies in the United States. We remain excited about the prospects and are committed to continuing our endeavors on behalf of the hemp industry.

Below you will find summaries of each priority, followed by a brief progress update. You can find the original priorities document here.

Regulate CBD Now 

The continuing absence of FDA regulation for CBD and other hemp derivatives has resulted in a more than 90% collapse of commodity prices and unregulated products posing health and safety concerns. Legislation requiring FDA to regulate hemp extracts allowed in dietary supplements and food and beverage additives would boost farming opportunities and protect consumers.  

→ H.R.1628 and H.R.1629 was introduced in the House by Reps. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) and Angie Craig (D-MN). A pending bill (formerly S.1698) will be introduced in the Senate by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rand Paul (R-KY). Because of jurisdictional issues, these will not be part of the original Farm Bill draft, but we hope to add them in on the floor or during conference committee.

Bolster The USDA Hemp Program

USDA staff has done a great job with limited resources in the development of the new domestic hemp industry. To further build the industry, the agency needs additional funding: to be prepared for administering hemp production in additional states and tribes; to properly staff a USDA-led interdepartmental hemp working group; to include hemp in biofuels support and R&D programming; and to create a USDA hemp research center. Funding should also be increased for tribes and states that continue to administer their own hemp programs.

→ We are actively working with USDA staff to include hemp language in their budget requests.

Hemp As A Specialty Crop 

Hemp remains on some lists as an ineligible commodity, for example in the USDA Specialty Crops Block Grant. The hemp definition should be in a manner consistent with the federal definition of a specialty crop. Hemp should be permanently and fully dual-designated as both a commodity and specialty crop, depending on the purpose for which it is grown, availing all hemp producers of the same benefits and support programs as those available to producers of other commodities and specialty crops domestically and internationally.

→ Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) is planning to introduce a bill to establish hemp as a specialty crop in the coming weeks.

Repeal The Hemp Felon Ban

The 2018 Farm Bill prohibits convicted drug felons who have completed their sentences from participating in hemp production. The Free to Grow Act of 2023 removes language banning any persons convicted of a drug felony from obtaining a license to grow or process hemp. Individuals that have paid their time should be able to grow a perfectly legal crop. 

→ H.R.1428, The Free to Grow Act, has been introduced by Reps. David Trone (D-MD), David Joyce (R-OH), Nancy Mace (R-SC) and Chellie Pingree (D-ME).

Promote Hemp Research At HBCUs, Tribal Colleges And Hispanic Serving Institutions

The hemp industry benefits from research by such institutions, yet much more research is needed. We also strongly support the goal of increasing resources and opportunities for underserved communities. By increasing the nation’s Centers of Excellence at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), from six to ten, and by supporting research at Tribal Colleges, and Hispanic Serving Institutions, these critical institutions can partner with the hemp industry to promote expanded hemp research and development toward that goal. 

→ Rep. David Scott (D-GA) is advocating to increase centers of excellence from 6 to 10; other Members of Congress are working to increase hemp research funding at MSIs.

Remove The Requirement For DEA Registration of Hemp Testing Labs 

The USDA currently requires laboratories that test THC levels in hemp to be certified by the DEA. While USDA has suspended this rule twice — for good reason — a permanent requirement would create a bottleneck for producers, creating delays that can result in lost profits. There are many labs certified by trusted international agencies that are equipped and capable of THC testing.  

→ The relevant section in H.R.6645, The Hemp Advancement Act (HAA) from the previous Congress, has been advanced as a priority to the House and Senate Agriculture Committees by several Members of Congress. (Note that the full HAA has NOT been reintroduced; a few provisions within it no longer hold industry support.)

Permit Hemp Grain For Animal Feed

Remove the requirement for hemp seed ingredients to obtain premarket approval for companion, exotic, equine and other non-production animals would help launch a profitable hemp animal feed industry, while ensuring end-product testing to verify consistency and compliance with existing jurisdictional manufacturing licensing and product registration requirements.

→ The Hemp Feed Coalition is leading industry efforts to identify sponsors for this legislation.

Ease Regulatory Burdens on Hemp Farmers

Current THC testing and sampling requirements are burdensome to farmers, particularly those growing for fiber, grain and seed. We support the objective of the Industrial Hemp Act of 2023 to reduce regulatory barriers for farmers and provide them with the certainty needed to continue to invest their time and treasure into meeting the growing demand for hemp grain and fiber crops across the country. We will work as a unified industry with the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, Congress, and USDA to address the needs and concerns of regulators and stakeholders toward reaching this objective. 

→ The Industrial Hemp Act (S.980) was introduced by Sens. Max Baucus (D-MT) and Mike Braun (R-IN); companion bill (H.R.3755) introduced in House by Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-MT) and Chrissy Houlihan (D-PA).

Addressing THC Levels for Hemp

While the current legal benchmark for hemp – 0.3% delta-9 THC on a dry weight basis – has posed challenges, minor adjustments to statute can reduce risk for farmers, provide certainty to processors and protect consumers, all without altering that basic definition:

  • Hemp Crops: Too often, as a result of climate and soil conditions or due to errors in sampling and testing, farmers are unduly forced to destroy hemp that is believed to exceed the federal THC threshold. Congress should mandate that crops shall be deemed compliant unless they exceed 1% total  THC, as defined by USDA.

 1% THC in the field – This has been advanced as a priority to the House and Senate Agriculture Committees by several Members of Congress. 

  • In-Process Hemp Extract: THC levels in hemp naturally spike during processing – including trimming, milling, and extracting – creating a gray area in the supply chain, increasing risk to processors and farmers alike. Congress should create a safe harbor for the storage, transportation, and sale of in-process hemp extract between properly licensed businesses so long as  it is not marketed or sold to consumers.

 In-process Hemp Extract – The relevant section in H.R.6645 has been advanced as a priority to the House and Senate Agriculture Committees by several Members of Congress. 

  • Finished Products: Due to FDA inaction, hemp products today are often under-regulated for safety and transparency. Congress should develop a framework to preempt state laws that criminalize hemp products, while working with  hemp industry stakeholders, scientists, and laboratories to determine uniform labeling requirements, age restrictions where appropriate, and other safety guidelines.

 Finished Products – Outside of Farm Bill for jurisdictional reasons – stakeholders working on solution.

Please visit our Federal Action Center to advocate for the bills mentioned. We also ask that you consider joining our HempSupporter+ program to to become more involved with our advocacy efforts! 

Together we can ensure the 2023 Farm Bill helps advance the U.S. hemp industry!