Wed | Jan 22, 2020

Proposed US hemp rules worry industry

Published:Monday | January 13, 2020 | 11:06 AM
In this April 24, 2018, file photo, a hemp plant is pollinated at the Unique Botanicals facility in Springfield, Oregon. (AP Photo/Don Ryan, File)

PORTLAND, Oregon (AP) — Hemp growers and entrepreneurs who were joyous a year ago after United States lawmakers reclassified the plant as a legal agricultural crop now are worried their businesses could be crippled if federal policymakers move ahead with draft regulations.

Licenses for hemp cultivation topped a half-million acres (200,000 hectares) last year, more than 450% above 2018 levels, so there’s intense interest in the rules the US government is creating.

Critical comments on the draft have poured in from hemp farmers, processors, retailers and state governments.

Growers are concerned the government wants to use a heavy hand that could result in many crops failing required tests and being destroyed.

The US Department of Agriculture, the agency writing the rules, estimates 20% of hemp lots would fail under the draft regulations.

“Their business is to support farmers — and not punish farmers — and the rules as they’re written right now punish farmers,” said Dove Oldham, who last year grew an acre (0.40 hectares) of hemp on her family farm in Grants Pass, Oregon.

“There’s just a lot of confusion, and people are just looking for leadership.”

The USDA did not respond to the criticism but has taken the unusual step of extending the public comment period by a month, until January 29.

The agency told The Associated Press it will analyse information from this year’s growing season before releasing its final rules, which would take effect in 2021.

Agricultural officials in states that run pilot hemp cultivation programs under an earlier federal provision are weighing in with formal letters to the USDA.

We want to hear from you! Send us a message on WhatsApp at 1-876-499-0169, email us at editors@gleanerjm.com or onlinefeedback@gleanerjm.com