Hemptown 2

Hemp grows in Southern Oregon near Central Point.

USDA is releasing regulations and guidelines for domestic hemp production this week, giving producers a roadmap for the 2020 growing season.

Officials with the agency said they’re hearing a lot of interest in growing the crop during a conference call with the media on Tuesday.

The program contains provisions and procedures for tracking where hemp is grown, testing for THC levels, disposing of noncompliant plants and inspecting farms.

It also includes licensing requirements and establishes a federal plan for hemp producers in states or tribal territories that don’t have approved hemp plans and where hemp production is allowed.

USDA will work with states and tribes to align their plans with USDA’s program to assure producers will have plans for 2020 if possible, Greg Ibach, USDA under secretary for marketing and regulatory programs, said.

The 2020 growing season will be “a chance to test drive” the new program, he said.

Growers must be licensed or authorized by states, tribes or USDA and certify acreage with Farm Service Agency, he said.

The program enables agencies to determine grower eligibility for USDA loans, insurance, disaster assistance and conservation programs. Bill Northey, USDA under secretary for farm production and conservation, said.

Producers must file an acreage report with FSA, typically after planting. They’ll also need to provide their license or authorization number and details of the intended use of the hemp they plant, he said.

USDA is developing loan programs for hemp production, which will be available on a limited basis, he said.

Whole-Farm Revenue Protection will be available for eligible producers in 2020, and allows coverage of up to $8.5 million on total insured revenue. Producers must have a contract for the purchase of the insured hemp, and hemp testing above the 0.3% THC compliance level is not covered under WFRP.

USDA will provide guidance documents for sampling and testing hemp for THC, which will include a calculated measure of uncertainty for results outside 0.3%, Ibach said.

Many hemp growers will qualify for FSA’s Non-Insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program, Northey said.

In addition, USDA’s Risk Management Agency is considering other insurance options for hemp.

The agency has already seen a large growth in hemp production since it was legalized in the 2018 Farm Bill, Ibach said.

Acreage went from 120,000 acres (for research under the 2014 Farm Bill) to more than 500,000 acres this year by some estimates, he said.

Acreage data from USDA’s Farm Service Agency and National Agricultural Statistics Service for 2019 is incomplete because growers weren’t required to report plantings, he said.

Growers’ experience this fall with harvesting and marketing will likely determine whether hemp production sees more growth or takes a step back, he said.

USDA has advised growers to have a relationship with a buyer or end user. How that works out will influence enthusiasm for this year, he said.

USDA will publish its interim final rule on domestic hemp production in the Federal Register on Thursday, putting it into effect. It will include a 60-day comment period and sunsets in two years, he said.

For more information on the interim final rule, go to https://www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/hemp

More on this story will be published on www.capitalpress.com.

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