January 15, 2021

USDA Releases Final Hemp Rule – We Need Your Input

U.S. Hemp Roundtable

This morning, the USDA released its long-awaited Final Rule on hemp production. Click here to review. The Rule will be officially published on January 19, with an effective date of March 22. It will supersede the USDA’s controversial Interim Final Rule which we discussed here and here and here. Thanks to you, the USDA received more than 5900 comments, urging the agency to improve the rule to protect hemp farmers from significant economic loss.

We are still poring through the 301 page document. What’s clear is that the Final Rule is a significant improvement over the Interim Final Rule, particularly when it comes to providing more flexibility for farmers to avoid destruction of their crops due to unintended THC spikes. However, the Rule is not perfect, as the USDA did not fulfill some of the industry’s key requests.

The good news is that a new Biden Administration takes over on January 20, with a strong hemp supporter in USDA Secretary-Designate Tom Vilsack. We will continue to press the agency for more support when it comes to protecting hemp farmers and the hemp industry.

But we need your help. We ask you to participate in a crowd-sourcing effort to identify areas where we will demand continued improvement. Please read through the rule and click the button at the bottom of this email to share your thoughts.

Listed below is a summary of some of the changes from the IFR to the Final Rule that we’ve already identified:

  • The Final Rule still insists that only DEA-certified laboratories test material, but it delays enforcement of this provision until 12/31/22.
  • The negligence standard has been increased from 0.5% THC to 1.0% THC, a helpful development to protect farmers’ economic interests.
  • The sampling window has been extended from 15 to 30 days of anticipated harvest, a welcome relief to help avoid bottlenecking in testing procedures.
  • Instead of rigid requirements for sampling being mandated from the federal level, the Final Rule establishes “performance-based” sampling requirements, giving states the flexibility to achieve performance objectives, such as a reliability of 95%.
  • The Final Rule continues to require pre-harvest samples to be taken from the flower material – not the whole plant as many requested — but it provides some relief by requiring the samples to be taken from 5 to 8 inches from the main stem, terminal bud, or central cola of the flowering top.
  • The USDA retains its requirement for testing total THC, instead of limiting the testing to delta-9 THC as requested by some in the industry.
  • The more flexible disposal options that the USDA proposed last year – including on-farm or at-production disposal flexibility – have been made permanent.

Please let us know what other concerns you may have with the Final Rule by clicking the button below: