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USDA Will Proceed Slowly on Industrial Hemp

The 2018 Farm Bill legalized industrial hemp production, but it is likely to be 2020 before the USDA produces the regulatory framework for the new crop, said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Wednesday. “We want to proceed slowly,” he said, to preclude a land rush that could “blow out a market before it can get started.”

Illinois Representative Rodney Davis asked about hemp during Perdue’s testimony before the House Agriculture Committee, saying it could become the “third rotation crop in the Midwest,” where corn and soybeans dominate. Backers say hemp has a bright future as a textile fiber and as a food additive or health supplement. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky was the lead proponent of industrial hemp as part of the farm bill.

Farmers in Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, and Texas have eyed hemp as a replacement for tobacco. The plant is related to marijuana, although, by law, it can contain only a tiny amount of the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

Also on Wednesday, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told a House Appropriations Subcommittee that his agency will call a public hearing on regulations for cannabidiol, also known as CBD, a phytochemical found in hemp that is a darling of the wellness industry. “I’m going to announce shortly a high-level working group that’s going to report to me on this.”

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