Home » Ky. agriculture secretary praises new USDA hemp rule

Ky. agriculture secretary praises new USDA hemp rule

Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles meets with other agriculture officials at UK’s 2019 Hemp Field Day. (Dept. of Ag file photo)

FRANKFORT, Ky.Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles on Wednesday applauded the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s announcement that it will implement the final rule on hemp production developed under the Trump Administration.

“The final rule on hemp production is much improved over the interim final rule previously issued by USDA,” Quarles said. “The improvements were the results of work conducted by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and other state agencies to provide feedback to the USDA. ”

The 2018 Farm Bill defined hemp as the plant cannabis sativa with not more than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) measured on a dry weight basis and directed USDA to develop a regulatory framework for states to manage hemp programs. The final rule comes after state agencies, industry groups, and hemp growers across the nation provided feedback to USDA on the interim final rule. The final rule for hemp production was released Jan. 19, but the new Biden Administration paused implementation for a temporary review. With the review complete, the final rule will take effect March 22.

Quarles sent two rounds of comments to the USDA about the interim final rule, highlighting potential sticking points with Kentucky’s current hemp program. USDA adjusted the rule to address nearly every concern raised by the commissioner.

One of the major concerns about the previous rule was that it would have eliminated a key feature of Kentucky’s hemp program, the ability of growers to remediate elevated THC content through a post-harvest retest. The post-harvest retest gives growers an opportunity to realize a financial return on their harvests by giving them a second chance to achieve a compliant THC test result. Under the final rule, remediation and a post-harvest retest is allowed.

Other successful policy changes included:

  • on-farm disposal of non-compliant hemp material;
  • new rules which standardize and simplify sampling procedures for the part of the plant to be tested for compliance; and
  • an increase in the “negligent” level of THC in the plant.

With these positive developments, Quarles plans to submit a revised state plan to USDA for the 2022 growing season.