Federal plan too late
Because the USDA didn’t publish the interim final rule until Oct. 31, 2019, during harvest season, state officials said they didn’t feel they would be able to pull together plans that would meet federal requirements in time to implement the rules for 2020.
This feat would have been especially difficult considering that the USDA included rules state officials opposed, according to Whitney Place, Minnesota’s deputy agriculture commissioner.
“It became really clear that there’s no way we’d be able to stand up a program that would meet the current interim final rule this year,” Place said.
Rewriting state hemp production rules was already a lengthy process before the USDA dropped federal regulations, as officials in Arkansas found out when they started reviewing its program in March.
“It’s taken nine months just to get the first rule rewrite done,” said Mike Stage, Arkansas’ agriculture division manager who oversees the state’s hemp program.
“So we decided that because we’re going to have to rewrite a lot of it to get it ready to submit to the USDA, we’re just going to go with the next season under the 2014 pilot while we rewrite our rules.”
The USDA decision to extend the comment period until the end of January also figured into New Mexico’s decision to extend its pilot program, said Jeff Witte, the state’s agriculture secretary.
“Not truly knowing what the final regulations might look like was a little concerning,” he told Hemp Industry Daily.
New Mexico’s hemp growers wanted to keep the status quo for one more year of certainty, Witte said.
After that, he noted, “we’ll have to look at whether we do a state program or turn the entire thing over to the USDA.”