Largest U.S. farm group supports higher THC limit for industrial hemp

U.S. farmers think the USDA hemp regulations are too stringent.

The government should triple the level of THC permitted in industrial hemp and give farmers three times as long to harvest a field after it is tested, said national convention delegates in voting on American Farm Bureau Federation policy on Tuesday.

Both provisions are sore points with growers, who say USDA regulations, setting a 0.3 THC limit and allowing 15 days to harvest after samples are collected for testing, are so stringent that many farmers will fail them.

The 2018 farm law legalized cultivation of industrial hemp and sparked high interest in a crop that could be a money-making alternative to mainstays such as corn, soybeans, and wheat. The USDA issued regulations last fall to assure consistent regulation of hemp by states and tribes. The comment period on the interim final rule closes on January 29.

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During a day of policy debate, delegates approved a hemp policy that says hemp with up to 1% THC content should be legal and that hemp can be harvested as much as 45 days after it was tested. Farmers say it is difficult to get seed that reliably produces hemp that tests below the 0.3% limit and that a 1% THC content is too low to get anyone high. The 15-day harvest limit is too short, considering it can take a week to get test results, they say.

"As USDA finalizes the regulations relating to hemp, our delegates have called for slight revisions there that we think will improve the program," said AFBF vice president Scott VanderWal at a news conference to conclude the convention.

As part of hemp policy, delegates supported the development of alternative uses or disposal methods for a "hot crop" that exceeds the THC limit, such as use in textiles, fuel, or livestock bedding, rather than the expensive procedures used to collect and destroy contraband. They also said any accredited laboratory should be allowed to test hemp for THC levels. The USDA says only DEA-accredited labs can perform the tests. Hemp grown for nonhuman consumption shold be exempt from testing, said the delegates.

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The AFBF board was scheduled to review on Wednesday the policy resolutions passed by the delegates. The AFBF is the largest U.S. farm group.

 To watch a video of the AFBF news conference, click here.

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.

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