Since 2014, every Agricultural Act, also known as the Farm Bill, has defined hemp and broadened how we may grow it, initially for research purposes and now for commercial production. Finally, in 2018, the 45th President of the United States signed into law a new definition recognizing hemp as an agricultural commodity. However, this critical step towards legalizing hemp farming nationwide did not account for industry nuances when growing and processing diverse crops, particularly grain and fiber.
The language that became law assigned authority to the USDA based on a limited and outdated belief. The idea is that because hemp is part of the Cannabis genus, regardless of its target production, it must be subject to THC testing. Although the intent behind this testing is valid in ensuring producers are not propagating a DEA-controlled substance, the overbearing perception and management of THC create unnecessary challenges for a historically profitable and productive crop.
The current singular plan that manages three very different crops remains problematic. It puts a cost burden and red tape on farmers who require a more efficient process to succeed and increase acreage to meet demands for grain and fiber. Montana’s USDA-approved state Hemp Plan, follows performance-based sampling and remediation methods based on risk for higher levels of THC. Therefore, the idea that certain hemp varieties may be exempt from THC testing is not new, and it’s time to make this federal policy.
Why We Need An Industrial Hemp Exemption
Hemp has been growing, again, in the United States for the last seven (7) years. Pilot programs under the authority of the State Departments of Agriculture collected data about the varieties grown and have adhered to and strictly enforced THC testing protocols. It’s time we leverage that information to reduce the burden on hemp farmers who grow solely for grain and fiber. The end-use products that result from their production are already recognized and exempted from the Controlled Substances Act. So why should we continue to burden the farmers who grow these crops with background checks, costly sampling, and testing protocols?
In summary, it's simple. Producers who choose to grow hemp for grain and/or fiber purposes are at very low, if any risk at all, of harvesting an illegal crop. Therefore, federal law should not mandate testing and instead enforce reasonable programs that require harvest designation and visual inspection of hemp fields, both of which are far less burdensome to the American farmer.
Grain and Fiber Industrial Hemp- Exemption Framework
Field crop grown using standard agricultural practices and the harvested material is ONLY grain and/or fiber.
Same 2018 Farm Bill licensing with added designation for only grain/fiber production & harvest (including GPS coordinates of land on which hemp is produced)
Signed declaration that producer will only harvest grain/fiber and will not harvest or sell floral material or extract any resin from crop (note- full use of hemp seed/grain authorized)
No background check required
Required visual inspection (i.e. in person, aerial with drones, or unmanned aircraft) to confirm uniform crop production consistent with production designation on license
No sampling or testing for uniform production consistent with designation
Additional exemptions for known producers using certified seed/varieties
If visual inspection reveals inconsistent crop production with designation, documented verification required (i.e. seed/variety receipts, sales contract, planting report) and the Department of Agriculture reserves right to require harvest inspection
Intentional violations: crop destruction, fine/civil penalty, restricted from program participation, potential criminal charges for high-THC production
Current 2018 Farm Bill Hemp Program Maintained for all cannabinoid/non-exempted production
Eric Hurlock- Lancaster Farming Podcast
Victory Hemp Foods
Midwest Hemp Council
Red Bark Farms, LLC