Sen. Charles E. Schumer called upon the federal government Wednesday to allow more time for comment on proposed hemp regulations, concerned that the proposed rules would harm the rising industry of growing the useful plant.
Schumer announced his concerns while visiting the Albion farm of Gina and Terry Miller, who operate an organic hemp-growing business in Orleans County.
Proposed rules were published Oct. 31 and the comment period is due to end Dec. 31. Schumer, D-N.Y., would like the U.S. Department of Agriculture to extend the comment period by an additional 60 days.
“When it comes to an industry as promising as industrial hemp in the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region, the feds need to get it right the first time, and not rush to any reckless regulatory decisions. Regulating this rapidly emerging industry is a must, but any rules must be part of a well-thought-out process that carefully considers the needs of all stakeholders—from farmers and growers to producers and manufacturers,” Schumer said. “These hemp experts have serious fears about how this proposed rule making could impose unrealistic or poorly thought out rules, restrict their industry, cut off growth and stop the creation of good-paying jobs. So, it is incumbent on USDA, the chief agricultural regulators in the United States, to hear them out and make improvements to the final regulations that are balanced and smart.”
Growers and hemp processers on a panel discussion at the recent Grow-NY Food & Ag Summit shared concerns about lack of clarity in the emerging regulations. A problem they mentioned and Schumer reiterated is the timing of testing to make sure the THC content (the stuff in marijuana that gets you high) of the hemp isn’t too strong. Samples are taken before harvest but results take so long that a farmer could harvest the entire crop before learning that the THC levels are too high for non-medicinal uses, and therefore have to scrap the crop.
Schumer said testing usually takes five to six business days, and the 15-day window for testing may be impossible to meet with a scarcity of appropriate test sites in the state. Additionally, the rules don’t provide for retesting or finding an alternative use for the crop if its THC level exceeds the limit.
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