Farmers across the United States have been eager to learn more about hemp and how this crop can benefit their businesses and families. For the last six years, more and more farmers have chosen to transition fields to hemp over other, less lucrative, crops. For most of these farmers, the hemp plant has provided higher returns than traditional crops, and we have seen acreage increase every season since hemp was reintroduced in 2014.
Today, many farmers are concerned that hemp may be more challenging to grow successfully than in years past. The reason for concern lies in the recently released USDA interim draft rules. The main areas of concern emerging right now are the change in sampling and testing protocols, as well as Total THC requirements.
While we may have opted to change the language of some of these regulations, they did not come as a huge surprise. Being based in Colorado, iHEMPx has always dealt with Total THC testing requirements with the Colorado Department of Agriculture. While it’s been more loosely regulated than the new rules propose, testing has been happening for years in Colorado, and our testing has taken into account Total THC levels, not just Delta 9 THC.
Although this new rule will make it a little more challenging for farmers to stay in compliance, it should surprise no one that regulators found it necessary to include more stringent new guidelines.
It would have been a big win for the industry, and for farmers across the US, if the rules had remained the same this season. Farmers would have continued to feel confident in growing compliant hemp, and in their ability to find success with each crop. However, it was naive to think a loose regulatory environment could have lasted much longer. Taking into account only Delta 9 THC would have left the door wide open for problems on the consumer level. Hemp crops testing under 0.3% Delta 9 THC could still have as much as 10%+ THCa, which would likely cause psychoactive effects in consumers. So although this new rule will make it a little more challenging for farmers to stay in compliance, it should surprise no one that regulators found it necessary to include more stringent new guidelines.
So what can farmers do to be successful in 2020?
1. Know what genetics you’re using going into this next year. Our genetics have been bred in a Total THC compliance state since 2014. Options do exist for farmers to have success but selecting the right genetics partner when sourcing seeds and starts is crucial.
2. Explore the potential for CBG crops for 2020. Our new CBG varieties are showing Total THC compliance even after flower is trimmed.
3. Have a working plan to stay within compliance. Ensure you have the know-how and resources to do your own testing throughout the season to position yourself for the appropriate harvest window to remain within compliance.
4. Submit your comments and concerns directly to the USDA. The public comment period is now open and will remain open through December 30th, 2019. You can submit your comments at the following link: https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=AMS_FRDOC_0001-1919.
Lastly, don’t get discouraged!
This industry is going to continue to grow, and along with that comes growing pains. We are firm believers in “where there’s a will, there’s a way” and we feel no differently now.
Both iHEMPx and High Grade Hemp Seed are here to help farmers find success in this industry. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us to see how we can advise your farming efforts. We all need to work together to find smart solutions that can work not only for large corporations, but for small companies and family farms as well.
If there’s one thing I’m certain of, it is the long term opportunity of hemp. This plant is here to stay as an agricultural crop – and the future will be better for it. The team here at iHEMPx couldn’t be more excited to be a part of it all.
Mike Leago, CEO & the iHEMPx Team