Agriculture in Brief: Hemp pilot program extended; new COVID relief fund for farmers

A hemp field in Montrose County.

In a news release to Colorado media late Monday, Colorado Ag Commissioner Kate Greenburg and Gov. Jared Polis issued a statement indicating that Colorado had replied to the request for clarification of the state’s submission for the Final USDA (Hemp) Rule, which is scheduled to be released in early 2021.

The CDA took a different approach to its suggestions for the national industrial hemp rulebook as drafted by the USDA from its original submission early this past summer. Complaints about both the federal and Colorado approach to managing the production of industrial hemp were many and varied as well as quite pointed. In the release this week Greenburg included response to 12 topics as requested by the USDA.

One of the most critical points of contention between the producers and the regulators at both levels was the threshold between a hot crop and a legal and usable crop.

Previously, the CDA (and the USDA) had been adamant that the THC content could be no more than 0.5% of the plant mass. The new CDA stance is 1%. The position of the producers and others in the industry was that the old 0.3% and 0.5% numbers were a false floor. A hemp plant with as much as 1% of THC is still far short of the 3% or more that would make the plant marijuana.

“Colorado’s comments also underscore the concern that USDA’s Interim Final Rule may create an uneven impact on small, beginning and socially disadvantaged hemp growers and producers. The State of Colorado has operated an innovative industrial hemp program since 2014. Colorado currently is the leading producer of industrial hemp in the United States,” the release from Greenburg and Polis says.

But Colorado, after a disastrous 2019 crop and market crash, now rests at No. 2 among the states. Montana has taken on the lead with better than 40,000 acres, while Colorado comes in at just over 20,000 this year.

The full list of CDA responses to USDA are:

• Expanding the allowed sampling window from 15 days before anticipated harvest to 30 days

• Increasing the threshold for negligent hemp production from 0.5% THC to 1% THC

• Proposing a program for disposal and remediation of non-compliant hemp plants to preserve value for producers

• Supporting the adoption of a “whole plant” approach to the sampling methodology for hemp

• Creating less burdensome requirements for the methodology used to sample hemp, including reducing the number of cuttings needed to collect a valid sample

• Facilitating the flow of interstate commerce by creating a uniform documentation and tracking system for hemp transported across state boundaries

• Eliminating the requirement for DEA registration of laboratories used to analyze hemp samples

• Supporting the creation of a more robust training program for third party samplers (also known as sampling agents)

• Supporting the establishment of a measurement of uncertainty for pre-laboratory sampling of hemp

• Establishing a separate and more flexible regulatory regime for hemp seedlings, microgreens and clones

• Encouraging hemp breeding and research

• Establishing a liquid chromatography factor of 0.877.

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