The South Dakota-based Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe is suing the U.S. Department of Agriculture and agency Secretary Sonny Perdue over the failure of not approving the tribe’s hemp cultivation plan within 60 days, as required under last year’s Farm Bill, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reports.
According to the report, the tribe submitted its plan on Mar. 8 and explained to the USDA that it had already invested in the project with plans on planting crops this year.
“A delay in approval of the tribal plan and unlawfully withholding tribal authority curtails receipt of the tribal revenue from hemp production at grave cost to tribal members, putting tribal members’ health, safety, and welfare at risk,” the lawsuit states.
The USDA argues that it cannot approve hemp programs until it develops its own rules and regulations for the crops. Sonia Jimenez, deputy administrator of specialty crops for the USDA, said the government shutdown from December to late January delayed work on the hemp program.
The Farm Bill does allow states and tribes to create their own rules for hemp cultivation programs; however, the rules must be approved by the USDA. The USDA did send the tribe a letter on Apr. 24 explaining that plans would not be approved until the agency crafted its regulations, which are expected this fall.
According to court records, the USDA has received hemp cultivation plans from seven states and eight tribes and has yet to approve even one.
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