In December 2018, the U.S. Congress enacted the 2018 Federal Farm Bill which, among other things, legalized the commercial production of hemp. Last Fall, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) published an Interim Final Rule on Industrial hemp cultivation, testing and enforcement. In order for hemp cultivation to be federally legal, a state must enact regulatory structures that meet USDA’s guidelines in the Interim Final Rule and have an approved State Plan. The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has undergone technical assistance with USDA to construct California’s State Plan and has issued formal rulemaking to comply with federal rules, as well as California Law. However, CDFA has not yet submitted a State Plan to the USDA for approval.

On Monday, RCRC submitted formal comments to CDFA on their proposed Industrial Hemp regulations prior to the 2020 growing season. Industrial hemp may provide new opportunities for farmers to invest and diversify farm operations with a new commodity, but can also present new regulatory issues for rural local governments. RCRC is committed to preserving local control and ensuring that counties, via County Agricultural Commissioners, have the tools to address any impacts associated with hemp production. For example, CDFA proposes strict timeframes for an Agricultural Commissioner to sample industrial hemp for testing, which ensures it is, in fact, distinct from cannabis. Among RCRC’s requests is for CDFA to take full advantage of the flexibility provided by USDA by prescribing a 15-day sampling timeframe, thus better managing the workload of an Agricultural Commissioner during harvest. To view RCRC’s comments in full, see here.