Last Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) released a statement, in which the agency clarified that the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill rendered the importation of hemp seeds legal.
As we previously explained, the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp, hemp seeds, and other derivatives, by removing them from the Controlled Substance Act. Accordingly, the USDA held that the DEA “no longer has authority to require hemp seed permits for import purposes.”
The agency further explained that the statement aimed to provide assistance to U.S. producers and hemp seed exporters who have repeatedly requested assistance from the USDA.
Indeed, the USDA received numerous comments pertaining to this issue during its March 13 webinar. Senator Jon Tester (D-Montana) was among some of the commentators who requested assistance with hemp importations. According to the Montana senator, the DEA was blocking Montana farmers from importing hemp seeds. USDA Executive Director, Sonny Perdue, explained that while the USDA was in the process of promulgating rules and regulations, farmers registered under an existing state research pilot program, pursuant to the 2014 Farm Bill, were allowed to import and cultivate hemp.
In its statement, the USDA maintained Perdue’s statement and further clarified that the agency now holds authority over hemp seeds and aims “to provide an alternative way for the safe importation of hemp seeds into the United States.” Specifically, the USDA set forth ways in which hemp seeds should be imported from Canada and other foreign countries.
Hemp seeds imported from Canada must be accompanied by:
- a phytosanitary certification from Canada’s national plant protection organization to verify the origin of the seed and confirm that no plant pests are detected; or
- a Federal Seed Analysis Certificate (SAC, PPQ Form 925) for hemp seeds grown in Canada.
Hemp seeds imported from countries other than Canada, must be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate from the exporting country’s national plant protection organization to verify the origin of the seed and confirm that no plant pests are detected.
The agency further explained that “Hemp seed shipments may be inspected upon arrival at the first port of entry by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to ensure USDA regulations are met, including certification and freedom from plant pests.”
As USDA Commission Purdue has expressed on numerous occasions, the hemp rule making process will take some time given the complex nature of the crop and its close connection with marijuana. However, even if hemp won’t be grown pursuant to the 2018 Farm Bill until regulations are in place, hemp growers who are registered under state pilot programs, and who comply with the newly released importation requirements, are free to import hemp seeds without the risk of DEA enforcement.