Warner, Kaine push review of Va. plan to regulate hemp production
U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine today urged the USDA to expedite its review of Virginia’s plan to regulate hemp production.
An expedited review, the senators said, would provide sufficient time for the General Assembly to update the Commonwealth’s hemp laws and address any potential deficiencies that may arise following USDA review.
“Industrial hemp presents an unprecedented opportunity for Virginia producers, and it is critically important that state and federal guidelines provide certainty and security to our farmers,” the senators wrote in a joint letter. “Expeditious review of Virginia’s Plan to Regulate Hemp Production is needed to provide VDACS and other state agencies with the information they need to run an effective hemp program for the 2020 growing season.”
“Virginia is poised to be a top producer of industrial hemp in the country. In 2019, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services registered over 1,200 growers to produce approximately 2,200 acres of industrial hemp. We expect these figures to grow substantially in 2020 and beyond,” the letter continued. “If Virginia’s Hemp Production Plan is not processed in a timely manner, we are concerned this could cause complications for the Commonwealth’s hemp program and our producers, who are eager to take advantage of this exciting opportunity.”
Hemp is distinct from marijuana in that it has a miniscule concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and thus no narcotic capability. The plant is estimated to be used in more than 25,000 products, including agriculture, textile, recycling, automotive, furniture, food, nutrition, beverage, paper, personal care, and construction products.
Sens. Warner and Kaine have been strong supporters of hemp as an agricultural commodity. In 2018, the senators sponsored a provision in the Farm Bill that removed hemp from the list of controlled substances, allowing Virginia farmers to grow and sell the plant as a commodity.
More recently in September 2019, Sens. Warner and Kaine successfully secured Virginia’s inclusion in a pilot to develop a crop insurance program for industrial hemp. In December 2019, the Senators backed two bipartisan, bicameral spending bills that provided $16.5 million in new funding to implement the Hemp Production Program.
Additionally, in December, they urged USDA to make changes to its proposed hemp regulations to better help Virginia farmers seeking to grow industrial hemp.