Oregon senators urge changes to USDA hemp rules

WASHINGTON (KTVZ) — Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., as authors of the legislation that legalized hemp production nationwide, on Wednesday asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make several changes as it develops its final rule for the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program. 

Wyden and Merkley, in a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, welcomed the interim rule recently released by the agency as a necessary step to establish a domestic federal hemp production program, but cited concerns about the unintended and potentially harmful effects the rule would have on hemp production in Oregon and across the country.

“We appreciate USDA’s commitment to hemp producers across the United States, and are pleased by your efforts to grow and support domestic hemp production. 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,” the senators wrote.

Based on feedback from Oregon farmers, researchers and regulators, Wyden and Merkley requested that the USDA:

  • Follow the Oregon model and extend the timeline for testing before harvest to a more realistic timeframe, and provide a reasonable timeframe for post-testing harvest, citing concerns that the proposed requirement of 15 days will be an impossible obstacle for growers to overcome;
  • Remove the requirement that testing labs must be Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)-registered, as hemp is a legal commodity and not subject to DEA, and such requirements would also cause unnecessary delays;
  • Allow testing for delta-9 THC using methods that do not involve the application of heat or decarboxylation, and to remove all requirements for converting THCA into THC, as the 2018 Farm Bill allows for flexibility in testing methods by allowing “other similarly reliable methods”;
  • Follow Oregon’s pre-harvest sampling protocol that a “sample shall be obtained from flowering tops when flowering tops are present, and shall be approximately 8 inches in length,” rather than requiring a sample from the flower or bud located at the top one-third of the plant; 
  • Set a negligence threshold greater than 1% for THC content—if one must be set—as the interim rule’s current threshold at 0.5% is arbitrary and far too low: A reasonably prudent hemp producer could take the necessary steps and precautions to produce hemp—such as using certified seed, using seed that has reliable grown complaint plants in other parts of the country, and engaging in other best practices—yet still produce hemp plants that exceed this 0.5% THC concentration.

A copy of the full letter can be found here.