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Chair Stacey Plaskett Opening Statement at Hearing “An Examination of the USDA Hemp Production Program”

WASHINGTON House Agriculture Subcommittee Chair Stacey Plaskett delivered the following statement at today's hearing titled “An Examination of the USDA Hemp Production Program.”

[As prepared for delivery]

Good morning and thank you to my colleagues and our witnesses for joining me today as we host this important discussion on hemp and the USDA Hemp Production Program. Today, we will hear from a panel of experts including producers, researchers, tribal members, and State Agriculture Directors and Commissioners who will provide an overview of the hemp industry and insight toward the 2023 Farm Bill.

Until recently, the hemp industry was outlawed due to restrictions put in place by the Marijuana Tax Act of 1938, and hemp was treated no differently than marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act.

In 2014, the farm bill removed long-standing federal restrictions on the cultivation and production of hemp, allowing state departments of agriculture and institutions of higher learning to produce this crop as part of a pilot program for research purposes.

In the 2018 Farm Bill, Congress authorized commercial production of hemp and directed USDA to establish the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program, giving USDA the responsibility of evaluating and approving plans submitted by states, territories, or tribal authorities who wish to regulate hemp production. 

In January of 2021, USDA issued its final ruling on regulating the production of hemp in the United States. Feedback from public comments, as well as lessons learned from previous growing seasons, helped influence previous regulations established under the interim final rule published in October 2019.

USDA continues to conduct education and outreach to help support the burgeoning hemp sector. In my home district of the U.S. Virgin Islands, small and local hemp producers have already taken advantage of the program to provide a new source of revenue for their farms and additional jobs to their community. With the guidance of the USDA, the Virgin Islands has the potential to begin a new economic era that will benefit the government, our local farmers, and local business entrepreneurs through economic and growth opportunities.

The production of hemp has created value for producers and consumers of over $800 million in 2021, with over 55,000 acres of hemp planted. While markets for hemp products, such as fiber, grain, and flower are developing, they are still volatile and uncertain. To support farmers, producers, and the ongoing development of this re-emerging sector, it is crucial that USDA continues its work to support and expand hemp production and the hemp industry.

As we look toward the next farm bill, we can continue to address ongoing issues and provide our farmers, producers, processors, and agricultural researchers with the resources they need. This hearing is an opportunity for us to hear what we can do to ensure the continued growth and development of this resurging crop.

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