USDA Announces Domestic Hemp Production Program

October 29, 2019

The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, announced the establishment of the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program on October 29, 2019 (1). According to the announcement this program, as required by the 2018 Farm Bill, creates a consistent regulatory framework around hemp production throughout the United States.

The announcement also explained that later this week, an interim final rule formalizing the program will be published in the Federal Register that will allow hemp to be grown under federally-approved plans and make hemp producers eligible for a number of agricultural programs. The rule reportedly includes provisions for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to approve hemp production plans developed by states and Indian tribes including: requirements for maintaining information on the land where hemp is produced; testing the levels of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC); disposing of plants not meeting necessary requirements; and licensing requirements. It also establishes a federal plan for hemp producers in states or territories of Indian tribes that do not have their own approved hemp production plan.

“At USDA, we are always excited when there are new economic opportunities for our farmers, and we hope the ability to grow hemp will pave the way for new products and markets,” said Secretary Perdue. “We have had teams operating with all hands-on-deck to develop a regulatory framework that meets Congressional intent while seeking to provide a fair, consistent, and science-based process for states, tribes, and individual producers who want to participate in this program.” 

The interim final rule will become effective upon publication in the Federal Register. The USDA invites public comment on the interim rule following the publication. A preview of the rule is also available on the USDA’s website (2).

The USDA also developed guidelines for sampling and testing procedures that are being issued concurrently with this rule (3), citing AOAC International standard method performance requirements (SMPR) among other requirements. These documents provide additional information for sampling agents and hemp testing laboratories.

AOAC INTERNATIONAL’s Cannabis Analytical Science Program (CASP) recently finalized an official standard for testing cannabinoids in hemp called SMPR 2019.003 for Quantitation of Cannabinoids in Plant Materials of Hemp (Low THC Varieties Cannabis sp.) (4), which was referenced in the USDA announcement as the official standard for laboratories to meet when analyzing THC levels.

AOAC scientists and colleagues have also developed related cannabis testing standards, including determining residual solvents in cannabis derivatives, and for detecting Aspergillis fungus in cannabis and cannabis products.

“The 2018 Farm Bill renewed hemp as an important agricultural commodity and delegated a major mandate to USDA," said David Schmidt, AOAC INTERNATIONAL Executive Director. "AOAC is pleased to support the USDA/AMS guidance for testing of hemp analytes with our Standard Method Performance Requirements, and we will continue to advance public health through our Cannabis Analytical Science Program.”

More information about the provisions of the interim final rule is available on the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program web page on the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) website (5).