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USDA engages in first hemp meeting since Biden’s inauguration

Representatives of the National Industrial Hemp Council (NIHC) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently met to discuss the hemp industry’s needs. This meeting, which occurred January 29, represents the first of its kind under the Biden administration.

Which industry concerns were discussed?

“As we continue to lead the industry as the only D.C.-based hemp trade association, we felt it was important to update Acting [Agriculture] Secretary Kevin Shea on a number of issues including customer safety and climate smart agriculture,” said NIHC Board Chair Patrick Atagi in a press release.

Atagi and Shea reportedly also discussed product certification, lab certification, trade protocols, development of a hemp checkoff program, funding for export supply chain development, and enforcement and provisions of the Agriculture Marketing Service rule on hemp.

They also reportedly discussed the need for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to establish guidance on CBD, the need for increased research and development, and the need to establish a Federal Advisory Committee to advise the future secretary on hemp issues.

What were the main goals of the meeting?

Atagi told Marijuana Moment that the meeting served three functions. He reportedly said that the main purpose of the meeting was to “make sure that the USDA is working on hemp issues currently, which they are.” He added that the conversation was also partially to provide education because “we have some incoming political folks — some who know the hemp industry and some who don’t.”

According to Marijuana Moment, the third purpose of the meeting was to ensure that the USDA “is up to speed as Biden’s pick for agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack, moves through the confirmation process.”

Was the meeting a success?

“After today’s meeting, we’re confident that Secretary-designee Vilsack will be fully briefed on the issues facing the hemp industry,” Atagi said in a press release. “We urge the U.S. Senate to swiftly confirm Secretary-designee Vilsack’s nomination.”

Atagi later told Marijuana moment that the overall meeting “went extremely well.”

“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done,” Atagi said. “But the USDA recognizes that and are bringing in people like us who know the agency, know the regulations, know where the . . . areas of concern are at to work through those.”

What can the hemp industry expect from the future Secretary Vilsack?

According to Hemp Grower magazine, many hemp advocates argue that President Biden’s decision to nominate Vilsack as Secretary of Agriculture will be positive for the hemp industry.

Vilsack held the same position under President Obama, serving from 2009 to 2017. If Vilsack’s nomination is confirmed, he will replace Sonny Perdue, who has been in the role since early 2017.

“Vilsack is a long-time champion of hemp, and we cherished our strong working relationship during his previous stint in that position,” Jonathan Miller told Hemp Grower magazine in early January. Miller is the general counsel to the U.S. Hemp Roundtable.

“We are incredibly optimistic that he will help provide the leadership and clarity necessary to unlock opportunity in the hemp industry,” Miller reportedly added.

Other industry leaders also reportedly expressed hopeful reactions to Vilsack’s nomination. Larry Farnsworth, the spokesperson for NIHC, reportedly told Hemp Grower magazine that Vilsack’s previous tenure was positive for the hemp industry and that this experience would help Vilsack “hit the ground running and pick up where he and the Obama Administration left off.”

Geoff Whaling, chair of the National Hemp Association, also reportedly said that Vilsack serving as Secretary of Agriculture will likely benefit the hemp industry.

“I’ve said it many times that I strongly believe 2021 is the year of hemp!” he reportedly added.


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