LIHUE — Hemp farmers in Hawaii are playing the waiting game as the federal 2018 Farm Bill rolls out, prompting states to send in their domestic hemp production program information for approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The 2018 Farm Bill declassified industrial hemp, removing it from the controlled-substances list. It also included allowances for states to have their own industrial hemp programs, and created a federal program for those states that don’t have their own.
Currently, hemp growers on Kauai and on other islands are operating under the Hawaii Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program, using guidelines from the 2014 Farm Bill and current state law.
The Hawaii Department of Agriculture is reworking the Hawaii Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program. Once that’s completed, it will be sent to the USDA for approval.
If approved by the USDA, the state Legislature has to approve the program plan before it can become law and the official set of rules for the industrial hemp program in Hawaii.
Currently, there are 36 industrial hemp growers licensed in Hawaii under the pilot program. Yoshi L’Hote, director of Aina Ho‘okupu o Kilauea, is one of them.
“Best-case scenario, they send the Hawaii hemp program to the feds now. They say they’ll review it in a few months and then send it back to the state,” L’Hote said. “Everybody’s waiting for it.”
HDOA said in a Friday release the entity anticipates “legislative action aligned with USDA’s direction to provide the statutory authority and resources necessary for Hawaii’s hemp growers to transition from the current pilot program to commercial production.”
HDOA didn’t give an estimated timeline for submitting the Hawaii hemp program to the USDA. They just said they’re working on it.
Meanwhile, the interest in industrial hemp in Hawaii is growing.
“Through the pilot program, there has been significant interest by existing and potential farmers in growing hemp in Hawaii,” said Phyllis Shimabukuro-Geiser, chairperson of the state Board of Agriculture. “The department is examining the new federal regulations and will continue to develop a program to ensure future commercial production of hemp in Hawaii.”
The public may submit comments to the USDA on the topic through Dec. 30. To learn more information and find instructions on how to submit comments, visit bit.ly/2C4WXQx.
Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or firstname.lastname@example.org.