Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer has asked the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to delay issuing final regulations for hemp growing until 2022. Schumer asserted concerns and challenges for state compliance to the Farm Bill due to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
On August 7th, Schumer wrote in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue that it is in the best interest of hemp farmers to continue operating under a 2014 regulatory pilot program that was established under the Farm Bill. He hopes that the delay will allow for the department to hear more detailed and thorough feedback on the interim rules established so farmers of the hemp crop can make proper adjustments.
The National Industrial Hemp Council (NIHC) and The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) have also stated that an extension of the interim regulatory guidelines, which are set to expire on October 31st, would be highly beneficial.
The organizations noted that because of the coronavirus pandemic, several states have been unable to formulate viable plans to be in compliance with the regulations set forth. They also stated that they appreciate the guidelines and intend to meet them as soon as possible, but simply need more time because state regulators have not been able to work with state legislatures to implement vital statutory amendments.
Schumer warned that rushing implementation of the final rule for hemp could exacerbate the COVID-19 pandemic. He noted that a greater number of people working in facilities to meet the rushed deadline could create opportunities to spread among farm workers, and therefore into their local communities.
As farmers need to operate with as much certainty as possible, timing and testing requirements would likely create a bottleneck that pushes farmers to rush harvests. The NIHC and NASDA admitted that this was no small request and thanked the USDA for making hemp a viable industry in the United States economy, but reiterated the importance of protecting farmers from a “perilous situation through no fault of their own.”