Here We Go: USDA Approves First Round of State and Tribal Hemp Plans

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On December 27, just two months after issuing its long-awaited interim hemp rule, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved the first round of state and tribal hemp production plans.

Pursuant to the 2018 Farm Bill, the USDA was tasked with both developing a hemp production plan and approving state and tribal plans. To produce hemp, growers must be licensed under a state, tribal, or USDA plan. Currently, hemp growers are operating under more limited state licensing regimes permitted under the 2014 Farm Bill.

After 10 months of anticipation, the USDA issued the interim rule on October 31, 2019 (discussed here). Due to the high level of interest and responses to the interim rule, the USDA extended the public comment period to January 29, 2020.

Despite the lack of finality with the interim rule, the USDA approved the plans of Louisiana, New Jersey, and Ohio, as well as the Flandreau Santee Sioux, Santa Rosa Cahuilla, and La Jolla Band of Luiseno tribes. The USDA is also currently reviewing 17 state plans and 11 tribal plans. An additional eight states and five tribes have notified the USDA that they are drafting plans. A comprehensive overview of the status of plans can be found here. The clarity provided in the interim rule, combined with the quick approval of state plans, is welcome news to the hemp industry, as it should have the downstream effect of enticing more service providers to enter the hemp industry.

While the interim rule is still subject to changes before being finalized, hemp producers should be prepared – in the very near future – to develop robust policies and procedures to ensure compliance with the USDA, state, or tribal plan that governs their operations.