USDA’s hemp program brings little change for feed industry

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/jessicahyde
© GettyImages/jessicahyde

Related tags hemp Usda aafco

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is launching a US Domestic Hemp Production Program to guide the approval of state and tribal production plans and establish a regulatory framework for the crop.

The USDA announced the program Tuesday [Oct. 28] and the related interim final rule​establishing the program was published in the Federal Register on Thursday [Oct. 31].

Industrial hemp is specified as containing no more than 0.3% delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), according to information from the USDA.

Greg Ibach, undersecretary of marketing and regulatory programs, USDA, said: “The 2018 Farm Bill removed industrial hemp from schedule one of controlled substances act and instructed USDA to develop a domestic production program.”

The interim rule takes effect upon publication, he said in a conference call regarding the program. It also includes a public comment period.

“We will use the 2020 growing season as a chance to test drive the rule to guide any adjustments that are made in the final rule,” ​he said. “The interim final rule will sunset after two years, which gives us time to make it through a full crop cycle as well as deliver a final rule.”

The program establishes that interstate transportation or shipment of hemp that has been lawfully produced cannot be prohibited, said Ibach. It also outlines procedures for tracking the land used to grow hemp, procedures for testing the concentration levels of THC, ways to dispose of non-compliant plants and procedures for sharing information with law enforcement officials.

The rule allows USDA’s agencies, including the Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service and Risk Management Agency, to start establishing eligibility for loans, insurance disaster assistance and conservation programs, said Bill Northey, undersecretary of farm and foreign agricultural service, USDA, during the call.  

Hemp use in feed in the US 

The interim final rule creates rules related to the cultivation of hemp, a USDA spokesperson told us when asked what the new rule meant for use of the plant in feed.

“The Farm Bill provided authority to USDA for the production of hemp only; any products derived from the processing of hemp do not fall under this rule."

The use of hemp or hemp products in feed is regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), the AFIA told us. Even with the launch of the federal program, the plant continues to not be a legal feed ingredient.

Some states like Florida have considered rules allowing the use of hemp or hemp products in animal feed or pet food, but neither the FDA or AAFCO have examined the use of the ingredients in feed, according to information​ from AFIA.

AAFCO reported​ earlier this year that, although the USDA has responsibility for guiding the growing and use of hemp, hemp ingredients still are “subject to the same level of review and approval as any other new feed ingredient.”

That distinction means that the 2018 Farm Bill did not include the right for hemp or hemp products to be included in animal feed or human food, according to AAFCO.

AAFCO requested that the hemp industry generate data for a scientific review of hemp and hemp products like hemp seed oil, hemp seed meal and whole hemp seeds, to set definitions so that the plant and its products could be used in animal feed, the organization said. However, that information has yet to be provided, according to AAFCO.

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