Stakeholders working on EU ag policies to better position hemp

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With the EU’s Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) currently up for reform, the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) and members of the European Parliament (MEP) are working together to make improvements for the hemp industry in the EU. Stakeholders expect final recommendations could be ready by mid-January.

CAP implements a system of agricultural subsidies and other programs supporting member nations. Introduced in 1962, the program has undergone constant reform and now also embraces rural development.

THC levels, genetics

Efforts at policy shaping on the EU level currently embrace such things as increasing THC levels allowed in hemp varieties grown in the EU from 0.2% to 0.3%, which would return the EU to the limit that was valid up until 1999, incoming EIHA Managing Director Lorenza Romanese told HempToday. Current restraints on THC levels “restricts the choice of varieties for European farmers,” she said. Currently, around 60 varieties are available but she believes an increase in THC levels could see that list grow substantially.

Clarity on EU-allowable THC levels in food is also being requested. Romanese believes outdated and unnecessarily strict levels of THC means “the hemp food industry in Europe has a significant competitive disadvantage to producers in North America and Asia.””Furthermore, the importance of plant genetic diversity (PGD) is now being recognized. Hemp plants used today in Europe are the result of long interbreeding process,” said Romanese, who believes this process undermines the genetic heritage and the strength of the plants; new varieties would mean new genes to breed.

Spring could bring changes

The amendments were tabled in early December and MEP’s will try to reach a compromise on the proposals by mid-January. It’s expected a vote on the finalized amendments will take place in the Commission AGRI towards the end of March. A vote may take place at the European Parliament’s April session before the text is sent to the European Council.

Romanese is a newcomer to hemp, having previously worked in the wine industry as an EU policy advisor. Nonetheless, her experience with European politics and bureaucracy will help her tenure when she becomes the Managing Director of the EIHA in February 2019. Despite not being officially in her role yet Romanese has supported outgoing EIHA MD Michael Carus’ work in recent months to help amend CAP for hemp farmers.

Hemp’s place

Romanese says that being involved in the agriculture sector for many years helped her “discover hemp and its virtues.” As hemp is among the crops entitled to obtain CAP funds, it caught her eye. “I believe it is time for hemp to occupy the place it deserves,” she said.

One of the MEP’s the EIHA worked with is the Irishman Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan. The renowned cannabis activist has been elected at a local, national and European level. In 2011, he highlighted his years of campaigning by wearing a hemp suit in the Irish national parliament. In 2013 he submitted a bill to parliament to legalize cannabis. He believes hemp is a crop that can help rural economies.

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