Washington, D.C. – When the US Senate Committee on Agriculture held its first hearing to discuss the nascent hemp industry, there were a lot of questions asked to delve into many aspects of the industry. But the one question that was asked several times by the Committee Chairman, Pat Roberts of Kansas, was will the actions of federal agencies to establish the regulatory processes for hemp be farmer friendly?

Chairman Roberts asked that question directly as phrased to each of witnesses representing federal agencies and asked similarly themed questions concerning various aspects of the regulatory process.

One issue which has already caused preliminary consternation among farmers concerns the legal requirement that any crop which does not pass testing proving it meets the threshold of .3 percent of THC content be destroyed. In questioning directed at the USDA General Counsel, Chairman Roberts asked whether the legal provision established in the 2018 Farm Bill required a strict adherence to an exact testing process or allowed for some flexibility. The response from USDA’s top lawyer was that they expected the states to use their experience gained during the few years of pilot programs under the 2014 Farm Bill to conduct the best testing available and use a farmer friendly process. That seemed to indicate some flexibility.

The hearing began with a statement from the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky who was one of the primary champions ushering the legalization provision to fruition last year. Senator McConnell used a football analogy, as he has before describing the situation as “in the red zone… within the twenty-yard line.” He listed off the outstanding issues to be resolved including crop insurance, FDA regulation, banking, and EPA approval of pesticides for use on hemp.

Other senators used the hearing as an opportunity to urge the various federal agencies to work in a cooperative manner to ensure that the regulatory processes are constructed with robust communication and input from all involved.

The video of the hearing along with written statements can be viewed here: https://www.agriculture.senate.gov/hearings/hemp-production-and-the-2018-farm-bill

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