Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Two years after nationwide legalization, hemp industry slumping because of patchwork regulations, oversupply

"It’s been nearly two years since the 2018 Farm Bill was signed into law, legalizing industrial hemp production nationwide and fueling hopes of a hemp farming boom. But that hasn’t panned out yet, with growers around the country still struggling to reap the benefits of the burgeoning crop sector," Ryan McCrimmon reports for Politico's Weekly Agriculture. "After millions of acres of hemp were planted in 2019, production is way down this year; many growers gave up because of a steep drop in prices and the lack of a market for their crops."

Another big problem is inconsistent state regulations. "The Agriculture Department has approved hemp programs for 29 states and is negotiating with another 12," McCrimmon reports. "Some state agricultural officials were so unsatisfied with the regulatory framework that USDA proposed last year that they decided not to move forward with hemp initiatives. (Among the biggest complaints are the strict limits on THC that can be present in hemp crops and the stringent testing requirements to certify those levels of the psychoactive chemical.)"

Unclear federal oversight has also hurt the fledgling industry. The Food and Drug Administration "has yet to put forth regulations on cannabidiol, the widely popular compound derived from hemp that’s increasingly found in products from pills to pet foods. The agency’s CBD guidance has been awaiting approval from the White House since July," McCrimmon reports.

One thing hemp farmers have going for them: though they were excluded from an earlier round of federal aid for farmers hurt by the pandemic, the USDA announced in late September that hemp growers could apply for a slice of $14 billion in new relief.

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