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New USDA rule will change how Idaho handles hemp


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Watch USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue’s statement in the video above. | Photo courtesy Idaho Statesman

BOISE — The United States Department of Agriculture is codifying a change that will, in effect, establish hemp as a federally recognized crop in the United States and address regulatory concerns in the process. The new administrative rule will change how the state of Idaho handles hemp production and transportation through the state.

In a release on the USDA website, the new rule will be officially posted later this week, but a draft of the new rule is live here.

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue makes the announcement of the new rule in a video on the page.

“At USDA, we are always excited when there are new economic opportunities for our farmers, and we hope the ability to grow hemp will pave the way for new products and markets,” said Secretary Perdue. “We have had teams operating with all hands-on-deck to develop a regulatory framework that meets Congressional intent while seeking to provide a fair, consistent, and science-based process for states, tribes, and individual producers who want to participate in this program.”

The State of Idaho still bans the production and transportation of hemp, but this new rule will address a lot of the concerns raised by legislators about hemp production. USDA will take the lead regulating hemp growers and production to ensure what’s labeled as hemp is what a business claims it is.

Governor Brad Little issued this statement:

“We expected new federal rules to address the transportation of hemp across state lines. From the start, I stated that we need to be sure the production and shipping of industrial hemp is not a front to smuggle marijuana or other illicit drugs into and around the state. I am reviewing the federal rules closely with my team, and we are building a plan to protect the health and safety of Idaho citizens when the interstate transportation of hemp becomes legal under the new federal rules. The plan will be a stopgap measure to address this issue until the Idaho Legislature develops a permanent regulatory framework around hemp.”

RELATED | Trucker faces felony for hauling what he said was hemp through Idaho. Now he’ll go to trial.

How this rule change will affect the current charges against a trucker who was pulled over while transporting hemp remains to be seen. Prosecutors dropped felony charges, but Elijah Watkins, the attorney representing Big Sky Scientific, the company transporting the hemp into Idaho, equates today’s rule change as a type of vindication.

RELATED | Prosecutor responds to petition to drop felony charges against hemp truckers

Big Sky is grateful and vindicated that the USDA opinion clearly supports what Big Sky has been saying all along and quite frankly, what Congress has said since 2018, that hemp can be transported through interstate commerce despite the state laws where the hemp might be traveling through.

This new rule, while encouraging for hemp growers or prospective people hoping to get into the business, doesn’t change Idaho law. But it may open the door to legislation in the upcoming legislative session to recognize the federal law and new USDA code and to create a plan for transportation of the crop in Idaho, or even its production here.

6 On Your Side emailed and called the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office on Wednesday afternoon, but after office hours. We will update with any comments from the prosecutors if we hear back.

This story was first published by KIVI. It is used here with permission.