A hemp field near Hastings in 2016

The Minnesota hemp industry has joined the state agriculture department in protesting proposed federal rules they say would be a huge step backward for the emerging agri-business trade.

In a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Hemp Association CEO Joe Radinovich said the rules threatened a job-and-income producing industry in rural Minnesota of hundreds of licensed hemp growers who cultivate 8000-plus acres because they undercut Minnesota regulations and threaten roughly 80% of the Minnesota harvest.

The proposed rules will make it more difficult to grow plants that are primarily grown for fiber, grain and cannabinoid-extraction purposes, according to a summary of the letter. They will also make it more difficult to see the development of large scale grain and fiber operations…”

State hemp inspectors sample and test fields for levels of THC, or “tetrahydrocannabinol,’’ within 30 days of harvest. THC is the psychoactive component of marijuana that makes people high. Hemp is marijuana’s nonintoxicating cousin and legally cannot contain more than 0.3% THC.

Radinovich argues the proposed rules will hurt states such as Minnesota that have yet to legalize recreational marijuana.  

“Where the USDA interim rules could have been a step forward to setting the rules for this industry for years to come, they instead exacerbate the uneven treatment of the cannabis plant across the country and will likely be subject to extensive revision in the future as this public debate moves forward,” he said. 

Minnesota agriculture officials has  raised alarms over new federal rules, since the 2018 enabling legislation, warning that the regulations would spread the state agency thin and punish farmers for even the slightest errors.

The interim hemp rules adopted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in October are “unworkable,” state agriculture commissioner Thom Petersen wrote the USDA earlier this month. 

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