WASHINGTON, DC - As the pressure mounts for federal agencies to come up with regulations for hemp, farmers are taking a gamble on a developing industry riddled with uncertainty.
Despite promises of being a cash crop, Cynthiana hemp farmer Brian Furnish, told the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, beware of get rich quick schemes in the hemp industry.
“There’s no crop available that you can get rich quick that’s legal. It’s a good crop that gives farmers another tool in their toolbox but it’s not something that’s going to save you from a lot of debt or from bad crops or bad weather,” said Furnish, President of Global Production at Ananda Hemp.
Regulators from the Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency were thin on specifics at a committee hearing Thursday but acknowledged coming up with rules for hemp is a complicated process and said the agencies are collaborating. Dr. Amy P. Abernethy with the FDA raised concerns about the associated Cannabidiol, arguing the agency lacked enough information for science based decision making on CBD.
Hemp became legal in the Farm Bill last year. Stakeholders are expecting regulations could be in place in 2020.
“We need the FDA to tell us what it is. Is it a food? Is it a drug? Is it a dietary supplement? We need all of those things to come out as soon as possible so that the investment can take place and the free market can takeover,” said Furnish.
“My biggest concern is how they are going to implement the testing protocols to ensure compliance with the .3% THC content on a dry weight basis,” said Erica Stark, Executive Director of the National Hemp Association.
When it comes to hemp, there aren’t any chemicals approved for weed control or pesticides for insects. Other issues include confusion among law enforcement. And the USDA has yet to roll out a plan for crop insurance.
“It’s a crop of the future. There are too many uses for it. It’s just that we’ve got to get the regulatory framework in place to protect the farmers, the processors and the consumers,” said Furnish.
“We need to get law enforcement to get better tools in order for them to be able to differentiate between hemp products and marijuana products and that is definitely a challenge,” said Stark.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell attended the beginning of the hearing, expressing his support for hemp production.
“I'm glad it's making a comeback and it's created incredible excitement all across my state.”
According to McConnell, it’s being grown in 101 out of 120 of Kentucky’s counties.