NHA buoyed by meeting with USDA officials

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Geoff Whaling, Chairman of the Board at the (U.S.) National Hemp Association (NHA), came away buoyant after hemp industry meetings in Washington this week. “There is new leadership in the USDA, on the Hill and within our industry,” Whaling in a July 5 NHA release. “I am confident that this group will advance our industry to a level never before achieved.”

While USDA indicated it will support hemp under existing rules, the Department said it “welcomes the opportunity to engage with the DEA in differences over legal and regulatory interpretation,” NHA said, adding, “that should prove helpful in moving forward with the introduction of the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2018.”

First hemp meeting

Whaling and Erica McBride of the Pennsylvania Hemp Industrial Council met with Department of Agriculture officials in the industry’s first interface with the Trump administration; USDA is led by Sonny Perdue, appointed as its Secretary this past April.

“Under the new administration, the USDA will continue to treat all parts of the hemp plant as being covered under the current Farm Bill and will not attempt to delineate parts of the hemp plant as practiced by the DEA,” according to the NHA release.

Also, “USDA will continue to support the hemp pilot projects permitted under Sec. 7606, and continue to welcome grant and loan applications, as well as all other applicable funding opportunities offered by USDA and NIFA,” NHA reported.

Whaling said USDA also offered to respond quickly to states looking for clarification on the Farm Bill, which could ease the path for research projects. “This is a welcoming change over the previous administration,” Whaling said.

Is Farm Bill coming?

Whaling was also in on a teleconference with Kentucky Rep. James Comer (Republican), lead sponsor of the 2018 Farming Act, who “hopes to have the bill introduced in July,” according to the NHA release. Comer had earlier this year announced a bill would be forthcoming in March but it never materialized.

“While legislative compromise is expected, the bill’s primary purpose is to remove hemp from the Schedule I substance list; set workable levels for THC content; and allow states to self-regulate the cultivation of hemp,” NHA noted.

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