SEPTEMBER 1, 2020
Colorado Republican Cory Gardner is the latest Senator to join voices urging a delay in full implementation of the IFR. Senator Gardner wrote to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue on August 25 in favor of letting the hemp industry operate under the 2014 Farm Bill until 2022.
In another widely-applauded letter sent on August 7, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York conveyed his own urgent concerns about the impending Interim Final Rules to Perdue. Both lawmakers hope to give the hemp industry some time and breathing room to get past the pandemic and the economic chaos it’s caused.
Economic Promise of Hemp is Threatened by Onerous Regulations
“The United States is now poised to transition from being a world-leading hemp importer to a world-leading hemp producer, and many look to Colorado farmers for guidance and clarity,” Gardner wrote, adding that Colorado has the longest-running hemp program in the country.
According to Schumer, “When it comes to an industry as promising as industrial hemp….the feds must do everything they can to nurture its potential.” He touted hemp as a “critical new part of the state’s agricultural future” that has brought “considerably better paying jobs and revenue” to the state of New York.
Citing the economic devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic, Senators Gardner and Schumer urged the USDA Secretary to listen to the concerns of farmers as they face increasing costs, bottlenecks and potential legal liabilities associated with the Interim Final Rules. The IFR creates burdensome compliance and testing costs. Additionally, state agencies’ operating budgets have to meet the enforcement demands of the IFR. In the midst of a pandemic, there is no bandwidth or resources for all the extra red tape.
Rushed Harvests Could Lead to COVID Spread Among Farm Workers
Senate Minority Leader Schumer was particularly focused on avoiding another public health quagmire that could result from rushed harvesting, and it’s already well-known that the timing and testing requirements of the IFR are difficult enough to comply with even without a pandemic. Squeezing a harvest into a 15-day testing window means that farmers everywhere will have to rush their harvests, and for that they will need extra farm workers. Those people working in close proximity to meet the rush increase the chances of COVID spreading among facility personnel.
Best Solution: Continue to Operate Under 2014 Farm Bill
The solutions sought by Senators Gardner and Schumer make the most sense not only for their states, but for all states with hemp pilot programs. Delaying the implementation of the IFR until January 2022 will give states and producers the breathing room they need to come into compliance while allowing the USDA to respond to some of the most pressing critiques and public comments. Read Sen. Schumer’s full letter here and Sen. Gardner’s letter here.