Tester to Financial Regulator: Montana Hemp Farmers Need Certainty Now

Senator continues his fight to cut red tape, provide Montana hemp farmers with access to bank services

As a part of his ongoing efforts to cut red tape and provide certainty for Montana hemp farmers, U.S. Senator Jon Tester this week sent a letter urging the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to quickly issue guidance to financial institutions looking to provide bank services to the growing hemp industry.

“I am hearing from producers in Montana that are having difficulty banking and accessing capital due to lack of clarity from federal regulators to financial institutions,” wrote Tester to FDIC Chairman Jelena McWilliams. “Congress ended the era of uncertainty on our federal policy for banking hemp by fully removing hemp from the Controlled Substance list when it passed the 2018 Farm Bill. I urge you to cut red tape for Montana farmers and businesses, and expeditiously update your hemp policies.”

Last month, after a sustained push from Senator Tester, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published its long awaited hemp rule that will ease regulations for Montana farmers. In a March 12th letter to USDA Secretary Perdue, Tester was the first member of Montana’s Congressional delegation to ask federal agencies to provide certainty for farmers by implementing the hemp guidance mandated by the 2018 Farm Bill.

Tester has been a champion for Montana hemp producers since they started cultivating the plant as part of a 2014 pilot program. Recently, 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. Additionally, following six months of inaction from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) on updating its hemp-related guidance, Tester last month demanded that they comply with federal law and cease prohibiting local banks from accepting funds related to hemp farming.

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 that recently passed the Senate provides access to guaranteed loans for hemp producers and encourages hemp research and education.