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Rep. Courtney Statement Following Release of Long-Awaited USDA Regulations on Hemp Manufacturing

October 29, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02) issued the following statement after the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a long-awaited interim final rule establishing the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program. Issuance of an interim final rule today is a major step forward in clearing the way for expansion of the hemp production industry in Connecticut and across the country. The rule covers requirements for where hemp can be grown, THC testing standards, the disposal process for crops that don’t meet the federal standards, and licensing protocols. Once the interim final rule is formally published in the Federal Register, it will be followed by a 60-day public comment period. The interim rule will be in effect while the comment period is open.

“Hemp is a highly versatile agricultural commodity, and industrial hemp production is a tremendous opportunity for Connecticut’s farming families, and our economy,” said Congressman Courtney. “Today’s release of an interim final rule by USDA is a big step forward for our farmers who have ventured into the hemp industry, and who are ready to keep producing this cash crop on a bigger scale – it will allow states to participate in the 2020 growing season, and it will give farmers and other stakeholders an opportunity to start making any small changes they might need to in order to comply with the new regulations. I’ve been pressing to get the wheels turning on hemp manufacturing ever since Congress authorized the hemp production pilot programs I helped draft as part of the 2014 Farm Bill, and especially after we passed the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized industrial hemp production nationwide.

“Connecticut has skilled farmers on the ground who are ready to get to work on this opportunity, and we have a state legislature that has helped to clear a path forward for them at the local level through our hemp production pilot program. I want to again commend Connecticut Agriculture Commissioner Bryan Hurlburt for all his efforts to deliver a major victory to our state’s agricultural sector through our initial hemp production pilot program, and I’ll continue to work at the federal level to ensure that our farmers are given every chance to continue taking advantage of this opportunity.”

“We are pleased that USDA has released the regulations with time for the department to understand their impact on our state program and allow for us to work on any revisions to be prepared and in compliance for the next growing season,” said Connecticut Commissioner of Agriculture Brian Hurlburt. “We have already started planning outreach events across the state in December and will use that opportunity to educate farmers on these new rules.”

The interim final rule issued today by USDA includes provisions for the USDA to approve hemp production plans developed by states and Indian tribes, including requirements for maintaining information on the land where hemp is produced; testing the levels of THC present in the crop and disposal of plants that do not meet the necessary requirements; and licensing requirements. It also establishes a federal plan for hemp producers in states or territories that do not have their own approved hemp production plan. The interim final rule is expected to be published in the Federal Register later this week, and will go into effect as soon as it is published. For more information on the USDA’s interim final rule, click here.

For years, Congressman Courtney has worked to greenlight the production and sale of hemp in Connecticut. In December 2018, Congressman Courtney voted to pass the Agriculture Improvements Act of 2018 (also known as the 2018 Farm Bill), which opened the door at the federal level for the growing of industrial hemp. Recently, in March of this year, Congressman Courtney was joined by Reps. Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) and John Larson (CT-01) in writing to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to request clarification on industrial hemp regulation and cultivation in the state of Connecticut, and to seek guidance on a path forward for Connecticut farmers to begin the cultivation of industrial hemp in the 2019 growing season. Click here to read their letter. In April, Congressman Courtney joined the podcast Cannabis Economy and host Seth Adler to discuss the history of hemp, its versatility, and its positive economic implications for Connecticut. Click here to listen to the conversation.