Oregon Senators Object to USDA Hemp Testing Rules

Few industries can claim to have experienced the same explosion of growth the hemp sector has enjoyed. Valued at $4.4 billion in 2018, the industry is expected to be worth a whopping $14.67 billion by 2026. While these figures paint an awesome picture, the hemp sector didn’t have the time to grow organically with comprehensive regulations already in place.

The USDA has had to play catch up, releasing its interim final rule on hemp a year after the 2018 Farm Bill legalized the cultivation of industrial hemp. While industry stakeholders are glad the industry now has structure, the restrictive nature of the proposed rules has been called into question.

According to two senators who’ve been key supporters of the budding hemp industry, the proposed federal plan to test for THC will damage the industry. The USDA hemp production rules, say, Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, lay out testing requirements with “potentially harmful effects for the new hemp industry.”

Last week on Tuesday, the two Senators sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue requesting changes to the draft rules published last month. The letter stated that while the USDA’s proposed regulations were a necessary step to establish a domestic federal hemp production program, they wanted to highlight “several concerns about the unintended and potentially harmful effects this interim rule would have on hemp production in Oregon and across the country.”

According to the new draft rules, hemp has to be tested within 15 days before harvest. Farmers have argued that this is too little time, and the letter calls for the USDA to extend the testing period to 28 days. Farmers would also be required to test their crops in labs that have been registered with the Drug Enforcement Administration. The senators say this will result in bottlenecks and delays for hemp producers. They ask the USDA to allow farmers to use labs not registered with the DEA as long as those labs have been approved by the state.

The proposed rules also require the testing to be carried out after decarboxylation. The letter urges the USDA to allow THC testing to be done before decarboxylation and to limit the screening to just delta-9 THC instead of all THC compounds.

Another topic the letter addresses is allowable THC levels. The proposal sets the limit at 0.5%, but the senators hope the USDA will raise it to 1%. They also challenged the need to test samples from the top third of the plant, asking the USDA to limit the screening to the top 8 inches of the plant.

They add that the farmers in Oregon and across the country are on the precipice of an agricultural boom that “with the right regulatory framework, stands to boost rural economies in every corner of the country.”

Analysts believe these sentiments about the proposed testing requirements may also be shared by other key hemp industry players like SinglePoint Inc. (OTCQB: SING) and Lexaria Bioscience Corp. (CSE: LXX) (OTCQX: LXRP).

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