USDA initiates plans to collect data from hemp growers

USDA initiates plans to collect data from hemp growers

The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), which is a part of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), intends to collect information from farmers and ranchers regarding their hemp production practices.

The NASS recently published a notice requesting permission from the White House to collect this data. This notice was published on Feb. 23 in the Federal Register.

What type of information is this agency looking for?

If the NASS receives approval for this project, it will seek the data over a three year period. However, the notice does not specify exactly what type of data it plans to collect from hemp producers.

The notice states that the NASS seeks approval “to conduct a new information collection to gather data related to the production of hemp.” The request refers to the survey as the “Hemp Acreage and Production Survey,” so it seems safe to assume it will collect information regarding acreage dedicated to hemp production and production methods used for this crop.

However, the request lists very few details regarding the specific information the NASS seeks. The notice merely states, “In determining the type of data that could need to be collected and the frequency of the data collections, NASS management attended a joint meeting with representatives from the USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS), Farm Service Agency (FSA), Risk Management Agency (RMA), Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), and the Office of the Secretary.”

The document does specify that data collection would occur via questionnaires that would be mailed out to hemp producers. The questionnaire is expected to take about 15 minutes to complete. The notice states that internet collection tools and a phone follow up will also be used to help increase response rates.

The NASS is reportedly in the process of developing a list of potential hemp producers to complete the survey. The organization does not expect the target population to be more that 20,000 people.

Why is this information being collected?

The notice itself does not contain an explanation of the purpose for collecting hemp production information. However, the NASS is tasked with preparing estimates and reports on the details needed for the operation of the U.S. agricultural economy. This can include statistics surrounding production, supply, price and chemical use for various crops and agriculture products.

The NASS regularly gathers this information with the help of sample surveys of producers, processors buyers and other relevant parties.

However, it is worth noting that this posting was submitted only a short time after the USDA published its final rule on hemp. The final rule on hemp was published on Jan. 15 and is set to take effect on March 22. It is possible that the USDA is seeking statistical information about hemp production to further inform its regulatory approach.

It is not yet clear when growers can expect to receive these questionnaires in the mail, but this will not occur before the open comment period ends. The open comment period for the notice lasts until April 26.

Those who wish to comment can address if they think the proposed data collection is necessary, how accurate the agency’s burden estimate is, how to improve the quality of the data that will be collected or how to minimize the burden of data collection from respondents. Comments submitted in response to the notice will become part of public record.