USDA guidance clears hemp cultivation seeds for import to USA

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American hemp stakeholders on Friday received clarification from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that they can legally import hemp sowing seeds.

The guidance comes on the heels of the recently enacted U.S. Farm Bill that specifically removed any Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) authority regarding seed imports. U.S. stakeholders previously required hemp seed import permits from the DEA.

U.S. producers and seed exporters requested assistance from USDA as demand for hemp cultivation seed is soaring in the USA, with supplies from abroad pent up awaiting clear rules.

Whither the 2019 planting season?

While USDA continues to develop regulations for hemp cultivation under the 2018 Farm Bill, the Department said its directive lets farmers move ahead with import seed purchases, presumably for the 2019 planting season.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said earlier this month that farmers can import and cultivate hemp under previous regulations as USDA continues to develop new ones. That came after Montana Sen. John Tester informed Perdue that farmers in his state – the USA’s leader in hemp fields – were having trouble importing seeds due to DEA interference.

USDA’s guidance on seeds

Under key guidelines in Friday’s USDA advisory:

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture regulates the importation of all seeds for planting to ensure safe agricultural trade.
  • Seeds imported from Canada must be accompanied by either a phytosanitary certification from Canada’s national plant protection organization to verify the origin of the seed and confirm that no plant pests are detected, or by a Federal Seed Analysis Certificate.
  • Seeds imported from countries other than Canada must be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate from the exporting country’s national plant protection organization to verify the origin of the seed and confirm that no plant pests are detected.
  • Shipments may be inspected upon arrival at the first port of entry by Customs and Border Protection to ensure USDA regulations are met, including certification and freedom from plant pests.

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