Yesterday the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Agricultural Marketing Service issued their Interim Final Rule for hemp production, including provisions to approve hemp production plans from states and Indian tribes and to establish a federal plan for hemp producers in areas that have allowed hemp production but do not have their own approved hemp production plan. This long awaited guidance further codifies the contents of the 2018 Farm Bill and is the next step forward for legal hemp cultivation in the United States.

While we’ve been fortunate in Hawaii to begin hemp cultivation immediately under a 2014 Farm Bill pilot program, the majority of would-be hemp producers have been in a holding pattern awaiting the USDA’s ruling. This legislation opens the door for more farmers in more states to grow legal hemp, and will allow us to extend and accelerate our hemp research and cultivation on the mainland.

With this new ruling, states must mandate procedures for testing hemp crops for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana users a high, and disposing of “hot” crops that exceed 0.3% THC. While hemp farmers will have access to crop protection options, the destruction of hot crops will not be a covered loss under crop insurance programs.

Now that the THC content of U.S. hemp crops will be closely monitored by the USDA, the hemp research we have underway in Hawaii and California is more valuable than ever. We are bringing modern breeding science and genomics technology to develop high-quality non-GM hemp varieties with improved uniformity, stability, resiliency and yield, enabling farmers to maximize the value and profitability of this newly-legal crop.

As an agricultural technology company accustomed to working within USDA and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulated sectors, we welcome these rules, which enable us to move forward in line with our plans for both cannabidiol (CBD) production and hemp germplasm improvement. We look forward to further guidance from the FDA on the use of hemp extracts as ingredients.

The full text of the USDA’s ruling can be found here.