FRANKFORT, KY. – Kentucky’s Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles on Wednesday welcomed the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announcement to implement the final hemp production regime developed under the Trump administration.

What you need to know

  • The USDA will introduce a new rule for hemp production that was developed under the Trump administration
  • The new final rule overrides the temporary final rule
  • The final rule comes after government agencies, industry associations, and hemp growers across the country provided feedback to the USDA on the tentative final rule

“The final rule for hemp production is vastly improved over the preliminary final rule previously issued by USDA,” Quarles said in a statement. “The improvements were the result of the work of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and other state agencies to provide feedback to the USDA. I am grateful that the previous administration, including the work of former Agriculture Minister Greg Ibach and his team, has established an open line of communication with the heads of state. “

The final rule comes after government agencies, industry associations and hemp growers across the country provided feedback to the USDA on the tentative final rule. The final rule for hemp production was released on January 19th, but the new Biden administration paused implementation for a temporary review. Upon completion of the review, the final rule will take effect on March 22nd.

The 2018 Farm Bill defined hemp as the herbal cannabis sativa with no more than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) on a dry weight basis and directed the USDA to develop a regulatory framework for states to manage hemp programs.

Commissioner Quarles sent the USDA two rounds of comments on the tentative final settlement, highlighting potential issues with Kentucky’s current hemp program. The USDA has adjusted the rule to address nearly all of the concerns raised by the commissioner.

One of the main problems with the previous rule was that it would have eliminated a key feature of Kentucky’s hemp program, namely the ability of growers to fix the increased THC levels by retesting after harvest. Post-harvest retesting offers growers the opportunity to earn a financial return on their crops by giving them a second chance to achieve a compliant THC test result. According to the last rule, remediation and re-testing after harvest is allowed.

Other successful policy changes were:

  • Disposal of non-compliant hemp material on the farm;
  • new rules that standardize and simplify the sampling procedures for the part of the installation that is to be checked for conformity; and
  • an increase in “negligent” THC levels in the facility.

In light of these positive developments, Commissioner Quarles plans to submit a revised state plan for the 2022 growing season to the USDA.

“I am encouraged by the progress the USDA has made and trust our ability to enter the federal framework as foreseen in the 2018 Farm Bill,” said Commissioner Quarles. “Additional challenges remain for the country’s hemp industry, particularly given the ongoing lack of action from the Food and Drug Administration. If this industry is to be successful, the FDA needs to provide clarity on hemp-derived cannabidiol products, and their guidelines cannot come soon enough. “