USDA and FDA issue statements on farm bill implementation, suggest process could run into 2020

Hemp and CBD companies seeking clarity over FDA and USDA policy related to the legalization of hemp via the farm bill will have to wait. FDA administrator Scott Gottlieb told a Congressional committee that he is gathering FDA experts to "provide guidance on lawful pathways for food products with CBD," hinting full implementation of the process including clinical research on CBD safety and actual policy writing could run into 2020.

Gottlieb is committed to an April meeting to hear from industry stakeholders and has said he is open to the idea of Congress addressing issues such as the use of CBD in food products via legislation.

Calling the process “complex,” Gottlieb said “We are interested in hearing from stakeholders and talking to Congress on possible alternative approaches... [for a] predictable regulatory framework for regulating CBD products… We believe [CBD] does have therapeutic value and has been demonstrated,” he said, “but I will tell you this is not a straightforward process."

At a separate Feb. 25 Congressional sub-committee hearing, USDA head Sonny Perdue said he would not examine any newly-submitted (post-2018 farm bill) state hemp plans until his agency completes its national hemp authorization plan. That process which won't be complete until fall, 2019, pushing USDA guidance into the early-2020. Until that time the current state-based rules under the 2014 farm bill will remain in effect.  

While disappointed with the delay, VOTE HEMP issued a statement saying, " We are committed to ensuring that they are well informed about the potential of this crop as well as the need for limited regulation. We want USDA to treat hemp like other crops wherever possible. There are many aspects that must be figured out including crop insurance, testing and how data will be shared between states/tribes and USDA."

The farm bill requires states wishing to support hemp growing to submit a detailed plan for USDA review. Only Pennsylvania and Kentucky have submitted a plan so far, but the American Hemp Campaign has produced a "model plan" suggesting the best elements all state agencies should include.

The USDA said it would host a webinar on March 13  to hear from the industry and public on implementation of the farm bill. Questions and informational requests can be submitted to the USDA


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