Hemp farmers across the United States are seeing their licenses revoked by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) amid a lack of legal and regulatory clarity.
Farmers in at least three US states who began growing hemp after it was federally legalised in 2018’s farm bill are now being penalised by the USDA for growing high-THC cannabis, despite it being legal in their respective states.
According to a new report from Politico, farmers in Vermont and Mississippi have reported losing their hemp cultivation licences after entering the newly legal adult-use cannabis market market, while another hemp grower in Missouri said that the USDA informed them they would lose their licence if they chose to follow suit.
One grower from Vermont told the publication the revocation of his licence was a ‘huge blow’ to his business, estimated to have cost him $250,000 in lost revenues.
The issue stems from varying interpretations of the 2018 farm bill by federal and state legislators, and the lack of clarity surrounding the regulation had already dramatically reduced the amount of hemp being grown across the country.
Figures from Hemp Benchmarks suggest that just 21,000 acres of hemp were planted in the US in 2022, down from 275,000 in 2019.
There were also inconsistencies in how these rules were imposed state-to-state, with Politico suggesting all of the farmers it heard from who were unable to hold both cannabis and hemp cultivation licenses reside in states without state-run hemp programmes.
The USDA approves state hemp programmes as stipulated in the 2018 farm bill, and directly oversees hemp farmers in eight states that do not have state-run programmes, including Vermont, Mississippi and Missouri.