Seeing Old Friends and New Members!

By Patrick Atagi, NIHC Board Chair


United States Senator John Boozman (R-AR) with NIHC Board Chair Patrick Atagi.

This week, I attended the in-person Southern Association of State Departments of Agriculture (SASDA) annual meeting in Little Rock, Arkansas. It was valuable for NIHC to re-connect and get facetime with the heads of the 16 Southern State Departments of Agriculture from Kentucky, to Florida, to Texas. There really is nothing like shaking hands and talking to colleagues one-on-one. On a personal note, it was great to reconnect with so many old friends from my days working in the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA)’s policy shop.

Of note, I had the chance to have a lengthy conversation about the future of hemp with United States Senator John Boozman (R-AR) who is the ranking member on the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. Separately, I had a good conversations with former Obama Administration U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Deputy Secretary and current Secretary of Agriculture of Delaware, Michael Scuse; Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles and his Chief of Staff Keith Rogers; and North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler.

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles with Atagi.

We had many other conversations with state regulators about both the short and long-term outlook for hemp. For the short term, there is positive momentum for our industry. For instance, in Louisiana, an effort is beginning to include hemp into animal feed. Many folks I met with this week asked about overcoming the many policy and logistical issues that need to be addressed for the success of the industry over the long term. There is a lot of interest at the state level in regulating and managing the agricultural production of hemp, but a lot of work needs to be done. NIHC’s outreach is critical in ensuring we educate regulators about the benefits of hemp and the implications of their policy decisions.

One thing we did learn was that many states want to be able to find ways to promote their hemp farmers and products on a global scale. So, there was great interest in the NIHC’s status as the only hemp organization that is listed as a government cooperator through the  USDA’s Market Access Program. In fact, after our conversation, Commissioner Troxler joined NIHC, (seen right) so we’d like to welcome the North Carolina Department of Agriculture as one of our newest members!

North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler, and new NIHC member, with Atagi.

It was good to get out of D.C. and learn in person with what’s going on at the state level. NIHC will be traveling again in the next few months and reconnecting with state regulators and industry thought leaders throughout the summer as we begin to open back up to in-person meetings. To quote Willie Nelson and take a line from his song, “On the Road Again,” it’s a great feeling being out on the road and networking, again. So, we hope to see you on the road!

Speaking of traveling, if you haven’t yet, I’d like to encourage you to register today to come see us in our nation’s Capital in November. Our NIHC in person meeting will be November 14-16, 2021 in Washington, D.C. You can learn more here.