Although the 2014 hemp pilot program is set to expire on October 31, various state agriculture and hemp industry advocates have expressed concern that some states aren’t quite ready to run their own hemp programs. On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (“USDA”), received letters from the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (“NASDA”) and National Industrial Hemp Council (“NIHC”) asking it to extend the pilot hemp program.
The groups say that while the USDA’s efforts at developing interim guidelines for the crop under the 2018 Farm Bill have been monumental, several states have been unable to create their own hemp programs due to the coronavirus. They asked Congressional leaders to consider passing supplementary appropriations legislation to extend the pilot hemp program through 2021 to give states more time to craft rules for their individual hemp programs.
“Many states were able to transition from their hemp pilot programs to a USDA state-approved plan. Notwithstanding this progress, many states will be unable to meet the forthcoming deadline. These states have indicated that due to the unprecedented national COVID-19 pandemic, state regulators have been unable to work with their state legislatures to acquire necessary statutory amendments,” the letter states. It adds that while the groups support the House inclusion of an extension in their agriculture spending bill, they are concerned that “the annual appropriations bills may not be completed before the extension is vitally needed.”
NASDA and NIHC also wrote separately to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue asking that the USDA issue enforcement discretion guidance when it comes to the pilot program deadline. “Without a policy of enforcement discretion, hemp farmers will be left in a perilous situation through no fault of their own. We understand this is not a small request. We appreciate the tremendous amount of work that has gone into making American hemp the viable and valuable agricultural commodity it is today. This is the direct result of government serving the timely needs of the industry.”
Larry Farnsworth, a spokesman for NIHC says that “as an emerging industry, hemp growers face a multitude of challenges, among them, is a worldwide pandemic that has complicated everything for everyone. Too many states just have not been able to work through their internal legislative and regulatory processes. We need more time to develop and implement the regulatory framework called for in 2018 Farm Bill.”
It is believed that entities like Sugarmade, Inc. (OTCQB: SGMD) will be following how the USDA responds to this request.
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