In a letter to industrial hemp growers last week, New York Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Richard Ball said officials do not plan to submit a state plan for the 2021 growing season unless the U.S. Department of Agriculture changes certain program requirements.
If New York does not submit a hemp plan to federal regulators, hemp growers in the state would need to apply to the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service for a producer license. In 2019, more than 500 producers and over 20,000 acres were authorized to cultivate hemp in the state.
In the letter, Ball described federal hemp testing and plant disposal regulations as “unrealistic” and said they, “impose unreasonable burdens on growers and any state interested in administering a compliant program.”
“Please understand that the State will continue to advocate for reasonable requirements related to the oversight of industrial hemp. In this regard, the Department has asked the USDA to extend the 2014 Farm Bill until 2021 and to otherwise provide a more flexible regulatory structure. We have made clear that if the federal requirements are modified to remove the challenges communicated to the USDA, the Department will reconsider submitting a state plan to assume responsibility for the program.” – Ball in the Aug. 14 letter
Prior to the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized hemp federally, individual states operated their own hemp cultivation programs free from federal interference under a 2014-approved plan.
According to a USDA comparison of those two programs, the 2018-approved rules require “a representative sample” of the crop is tested by a Drug Enforcement Administration-registered lab “within 15 days prior to the anticipated harvest.” Under the previous rules, testing requirements were set by the states and didn’t require labs to be DEA-registered. The rules also require non-compliant plants – meaning they are over the 0.3 percent THC threshold – to be destroyed “using DEA and [Controlled Substances Act] procedures.” Previously, those rules were set by the state.
The old rules also didn’t require sharing of information with law enforcement and allowed states to set the rules for which products could come to market.
Under current rules, federal hemp licenses may be issued to cultivators and processors in states that do not regulate hemp but do not specifically outlaw it. Native American tribes living on sovereign lands in states with hemp bans may also apply to the federal government to grow and process hemp. Producers in states without legal hemp are not eligible for USDA licenses.