New York Governor Vetoes Bills Allowing for Hemp Seeds in Animal Feed

New York Governor Vetoes Bills Allowing for Hemp Seeds in Animal Feed

The two measures would’ve made hemp seeds part of feed meant for pets, horses, and camelids, like llamas and alpacas.


Along with its uses for plant medicine, building materials, fabric, and biofuels, hemp is also an excellent source of protein for both human and animal consumption. Since the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized hemp and all of its derivative products, hemp as a food source, particularly for agricultural livestock, has begun to take hold in many hemp-friendly states.


One of those states is New York, where state lawmakers passed a pair of legislative measures a few months ago enabling farmers in the Empire State to add industrial hemp seed to their regular rotation of animal feed for horses and camelids (llamas and alpacas). The bills also would have allowed pet owners to include hemp seed hulls and seed meal in their respective animals’ diets. 


The legislative measures would not have permitted hemp seeds and additives to be part of other commercial livestock feed programs, primarily because of the regulatory headaches related to specific ingredients for animals used for human consumption.


However, according to multiple media outlets, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D), an outspoken advocate of New York’s burgeoning hemp industry, vetoed the two measures earlier this month. In her veto message last Friday, Hochul said she made her decision mainly because the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet approved adding hemp seed to animal feed. Adding “more information is required” before she agrees to get behind the legislation. 


“To that end, I am directing the Department of Agriculture and Markets to work with Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to research the impacts of the use of hemp seed or hemp seed products in animal feed. This study is to be completed in an expeditious manner to better inform the industry on the questions raised by the potential for expanded use of hemp products,” Hochul wrote.


“To that end, I am directing the Department of Agriculture and Markets to work with Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to research the impacts of the use of hemp seed or hemp seed products in animal feed. This study is to be completed in an expeditious manner to better inform the industry on the questions raised by the potential for expanded use of hemp products.”

- New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D)


Her decision was a massive disappointment and setback for advocates of the industrial hemp seed food program. Supporters point to nutrition as a crucial factor for adding hemp to animal feed, with hemp seeds high in protein and fiber. A research study from 2022 also found that providing livestock with industrial hemp can have beneficial effects on the activity and stress levels in cattle.  


New York is not the first state to entertain the idea of adding industrial hemp to livestock feed programs. In April 2021, Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte signed legislation permitting hemp and hemp derivatives to be used as ingredients in food for pets, horses, and other livestock. Inspired by Montana’s initiative, Pennsylvania lawmakers working with the state’s Department of Agriculture also contemplated passing a similar law. 


However, officials halted that process, citing many of the same concerns expressed by Hochul during her veto process that an ingredient must be designated as “safe” by the FDA or listed as a “recognized feed ingredient” before it can be sold or distributed as part of animal feed. 


Despite the hesitation on the part of Hochul and Pennsylvania Agriculture officials, New York lawmakers remain committed to the effort. After the Governor’s vetoes, they said, “Protecting industrial hemp production in New York will encourage greater production and research into the myriad uses of this plant, including as a renewable building material. It will also open the door for small, New York-based animal food processors to establish this marketplace before hemp seeds are authorized for use in commercial feed nationally.”


"Protecting industrial hemp production in New York will encourage greater production and research into the myriad uses of this plant, including as a renewable building material. It will also open the door for small, New York-based animal food processors to establish this marketplace before hemp seeds are authorized for use in commercial feed nationally.”

- Response to Governor Hochul's Veto by New York State Lawmakers


They also added a fiscal note claiming that the legislation would have provided the state with increased tax revenue due to “increased sales of New York hemp seed product and commercial feed.”


While Governor Hochul is correct in her concerns over the need for FDA approval before greenlighting the use of industrial hemp across all levels of feed for New York livestock, pets, and other domesticated farm animals, her quick use of the veto pen without seeking a compromise is disappointing. 


Support for the hemp industry means getting behind the market sector even when the decision may not be popular or politically expedient. Expanding hemp’s use and influence will be critical to establishing its permanent place in the agriculture sector and the massively lucrative health and wellness sectors. Hopefully, leaders like Hochul will receive the message and turn their apprehension into aggressive application the next time around.