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Utah Farmers Are Expecting Stricter Hemp Regulations

Utah hemp farmers are to expect new hemp growing regulations that are stricter than the ones that were in place this past year.

The United States Department of Agriculture has proposed new regulations for hemp farmers around the country. Currently there is a comment period going on until December 30 on the proposed regulations. And farmers throughout the country are speaking out on how these regulations could affect their operations.

In the past, it was up to the states to determine how industrial hemp was regulated, however, with the recent proposed USDA regulations, states must comply with a universal set of rules.

Some major points in the proposed rules by USDA include required hemp tests for THC levels within 15 days of harvest, testing must be done by DEA registered labs, farmers will be found for negligence if THC levels exceed .5%, and testing will be done only to the top third of the plant. 

“There’s just a tightening, a compression of the rule set," said Andrew Rigby, director of medical cannabis and industrial hemp program for Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.

"There’s less flexibility, there’s less margin for error which complicates things for cultivators. What the USDA has asked all 50 states to do is submit a proposal of industrial hemp programs they will either approve or not approve," he said "It is the states intention to have an application submitted to the USDA by years end. Our application won’t be proposing to change out program drastically.”

Utah’s rules were set after looking into regulations already put into place by other states. Some regulations that Utah has put into place, such as transport licenses and permits, are going to be part of the new regulation.

According Tom Paskett, the executive director of Utah Cannabis Association, it's hard on the farmer to keep changing up the regulations.

“All the ambiguity in the changing of rules is only adding a chilling effect on the industry at large,” Paskett said. “When it's so difficult to understand the rules and regulations of the industry that you work in that you can’t sleep at night, people reach a point where 'ok, that not worth it, I’m going to grow tomatoes instead.'”

This year, the number of hemp farmers in Utah that will be affected by the regulation change is estimated to jump from 180 to 250.