|Toki Oshima illustration|
By Chris Grigsby
The year 2019 was certainly a whirlwind in the world of hemp production in the United States. MOFGA Certification Services (MCS) has been working hard to relay information to growers, submit comments and testimony on proposed rules, and prepare our organic certification program to accept applications from hemp growers. December 2018 saw the signing of the new Farm Bill, which legalized production of hemp and all its derivatives. The USDA was charged with implementing rules to govern this production, and on October 31, 2019, released the Interim Final Rule for Domestic Hemp Production. The 2018 farm bill updated the status of hemp from the 2014 farm bill but left in place a timeline for sunsetting the 2014 provisions one year after the USDA Final Rule is implemented.
The Interim Final Rule presents some challenges, which we hope will be addressed through the public comment process. These challenges include testing requirements, amount of time after testing for harvest to take place, what happens with “hot” hemp (hemp that tests above the 0.3% THC threshold) and DEA registration for labs that test hemp. For a more detailed overview, please read the featured article in the fall 2019 MCS newsletter, The Organic Sprout.
To further complicate matters, in December 2018 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a press release declaring that because CBD (cannabidiol derived from hemp) had recently been approved as a component of a childhood epilepsy drug, it is now a violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to adulterate food products with this ingredient. To date the FDA has not released any updated determinations or guidance but has begun sending warning letters to companies that are using inappropriate claims on CBD products.
Here are important considerations for Maine producers:
- This is a new crop entering the agricultural system in the United States. With that come many challenges with infrastructure, regulatory requirements, transport, law enforcement and the like. We strongly advise considering legal counsel and help with developing business plans. Consider the significant startup expenses and commitment.
- MOFGA Certification Services can now certify hemp under the National Organic Program regulations. MOFGA’s Clean Cannabis program is also an option for growers who may not want or need the USDA certification to access current or future markets.
- The new Domestic Hemp Program allows hemp growers to access applicable USDA programs, including the Organic Cost Share Rebate to reduce certification costs. NRCS grant funding, crop insurance and research should be forthcoming as the domestic program takes shape.
- The state of Maine will continue to run the same hemp program in 2020 as in past years and will administer licenses for production in Maine. The state program will become obsolete as of October 31, 2020. USDA will be the only jurisdiction from that point on, and the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry has signaled that it will likely submit a plan to USDA to administer the national program for USDA in Maine.
For more information or if you have questions, please contact the MCS office at [email protected] or 207-568-6031.