USDA Rule Puts Pressure on California to Finalize Hemp Regulations

Brian German Agri-Business, Regulation

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently published the interim final rule pertaining to hemp regulations as part of the 2018 Farm Bill on October 31.  The rules and requirements for hemp production have now been established for the Domestic Hemp Production Program.  Until California submits a plan for hemp production, growers could potentially have the option of working with USDA directly for registration.    

hemp regulations

“If the state is not regulating hemp, but also not prohibiting it, there’s a provision in the farm bill that allows growers to be directly regulated by USDA,” said Josh Huntsinger, Placer County Agricultural Commissioner.  “These regulations that went into effect on October 31 state that 30 days after October 31 growers can then apply for that USDA direct regulation in states that don’t have state plans in the works.”

There are also some inconsistencies between the USDA’s hemp regulations and the rules that California has been developing.  California rules state that testing must be performed within 30 days of harvest, whereas federal regulations call for testing within 15 days.  “The big thing to watch out for through the rest of 2019 and 2020 is just how the state of California is able to bring their program into consistency with the federal 2018 Farm Bill and the regulations that were just released,” Huntsinger noted.

A bill recently signed by Governor Gavin Newsom requires that the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) submit a hemp regulation plan to the USDA before May 1, 2020.  USDA will have 60 days to issue a decision on the plan, which can be resubmitted if modifications are required.  Until CDFA submits a regulatory plan for hemp production California growers may have an opportunity to work with USDA directly.

“If the state at least has an application in with USDA it sounds like USDA will not issue a license to a grower in California,” said Huntsinger.  “We are anxiously awaiting to see whether California gets a state plan application in for approval from USDA in that 30-day window, or if there’s some potential for growers to have the ability to directly regulate with the USDA.”

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West