Tester Demands Regulators Allow Hemp Producers to Bank Locally, Slams Agency for Disregarding Federal Law

Senator: “It is absolutely unacceptable to deny legally available services to those who need them”

Following six months of inaction from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) on updating its hemp-related guidance, U.S. Senator Jon Tester is demanding that they comply with federal law and cease prohibiting local banks from accepting funds related to hemp farming.

“Montana leads the nation in hemp production, planting more than 40,000 acres in 2019,” Tester wrote to FinCEN Director Ken Blanco. “Yet, as producers pioneer a new crop, they are shut out of the banks that they have worked with for generations. I am hearing from folks across Montana that their banks will not accept funds related to hemp farming, fearing enforcement action from their regulators… especially as most farmers are harvesting their very first hemp crop, it is absolutely unacceptable to deny legally available services to those who need them.”

FinCEN is among the last regulators to implement year-old laws allowing farmers to produce hemp, preventing many financial institutions from banking hemp due to fear of enforcement action from the organization. FinCEN is refusing to update its guidance until a USDA federal hemp plan is released.

Hemp was removed from the list of Schedule I controlled substances nearly a year ago, following the passage of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, which now permits producers to grow the crop. In August, the National Credit Union Administration announced that it will provide financial services to legally operating hemp businesses and farmers. The Fiscal Year 2020 Senate Appropriations package currently making its way through Congress would direct the Farm Credit Service to bank hemp as well.

Tester has been a champion for Montana hemp producers since they started cultivating the plant as part of a 2014 pilot program. Last month, he secured nearly $165,000 to research hemp and establish Canadian markets for the crop, and earlier this spring, he successfully pushed Customs and Border Protection to update their hemp guidance to allow Montana producers to purchase hemp seeds from Canada. Tester was the first member of Montana’s Congressional delegation to ask federal agencies to address this issue in a March 12th letter to USDA Secretary Perdue.

You can read Tester’s letter to FinCEN Director Blanco HERE.