Following Tester Push, USDA Eases Hemp Regulations for Montana Farmers

Senator was the first member of Montana’s Congressional delegation to ask federal agencies to address the issue last spring

Following a sustained push from U.S. Senator Jon Tester, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today that it will publish a new hemp rule in the federal register that will ease regulations for Montana farmers.

“This is a win for Montana’s farmers, cutting the red tape that’s stood in the way of business and job growth,” said Tester, who was the first member of Montana’s congressional delegation to ask federal agencies to address the issue. “The new rule means better access to cutting-edge research and new markets for hemp—which our state leads the country in producing—and it means certainty for the folks pioneering a new crop.”

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.

Just last week, following six months of inaction from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) on updating its hemp-related guidance, Tester demanded that they comply with federal law and cease prohibiting local banks from accepting funds related to hemp farming.

The USDA rule, which will have a 60 day comment period before it goes into effect, includes the following provisions:

  • Framework for states and Tribes to draft and finalize their own hemp guidance, which may be used in place of federal guidance. The framework includes testing procedures, THC thresholds, and destruction of non-compliant plants. States and Tribes may apply as soon as the rule goes into effect.
  • roducers may apply for a USDA hemp license 30 days after the rule goes into effect. The 30-day delay will help prioritize state and Tribal plans.
  • Allows hemp producers and businesses to move their products interstate.

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.