July 24, 2017

Senator Gillibrand Urges USDA To Expand Crop Insurance Coverage For New York State Industrial Hemp Farmers

Eaton, NY – Standing at JD Farms, one of the largest industrial hemp farms in New York State, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to expand crop insurance coverage for New York State industrial hemp farmers.

“If our farmers are going to invest their resources to grow industrial hemp and help build our local economy, they should have the peace of mind that their investments are going to be protected if a natural disaster comes and wipes out their harvest,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “The Industrial Hemp Farming Act, would help change our outdated federal laws and clear a pathway to provide appropriate crop insurance protections for industrial hemp farmers.”

“Insuring industrial hemp crops will give our farmers peace of mind and provide parity for this important agricultural commodity,” said Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo (D-Binghamton). “I’d like to thank Senator Gillibrand for recognizing the work we’ve done at the state level and taking the lead in Washington on this critical issue. This is a very important step in the growth of the commercial hemp industry in NYS.” 

“Providing hemp farmers the same insurance protections as other crops will make hemp a viable and sustainable commodity for our farmers to grow,” said New York State Assemblyman William Magee.

“Hemp is a value laden crop that, if treated like a legitimate agricultural commodity, can provide farmers access to a high growth market,” said Dan Dolgin, Co-Owner of JD Farms. “As such, it is critical that farmers receive the same protections against increased weather volatility experienced worldwide.”

Senator Gillibrand previously co-sponsored the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, legislation that would remove industrial hemp from Schedule 1 and clarify the role of the Attorney General to determine whether a state law permitting the cultivation of industrial hemp is in compliance with federal THC limits and standards. Currently, the farming of industrial hemp is legal in New York State. However, in order for farmers to receive crop insurance, they require additional clarification from the Administration and for hemp to be designated a specialty crop by the USDA.

Hemp can be used in the manufacture of many products including building materials, apparel, cosmetics, and automotive parts.

The full text of Senator Gillibrand’s letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture included here and below:

George Ervin “Sonny” Perdue III 
Secretary
United States Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20250

Dear Secretary Perdue,

There are now more than thirty states with laws authorizing industrial hemp pilot research or production programs as permitted under Section of 7606 of the Agricultural Act of 2014. States have been compelled to permit the exploration of industrial hemp production because of the growing market for hemp products and the opportunity industrial hemp may afford many farmers to add a crop to their rotation that can both improve soil health and provide additional revenue. I therefor request that you direct the Administrator of the Risk Management Agency (RMA) to begin consideration of how the U.S. Department of Agriculture can provide appropriate crop insurance options for industrial hemp producers and how industrial hemp may be incorporated into the Whole-Farm Revenue Protection Program.

On November 20, 2015, I joined with forty-seven of my Congressional colleagues to write a bipartisan, bicameral letter to the Secretary of Agriculture requesting clarification regarding whether institutions and producers authorized by the States to participate in industrial hemp pilot programs were eligible for federal research grant programs. The Statement of Principles on Industrial Hemp (81 FR 53395) issued jointly by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Food and Drug Administration on August 12, 2016, affirmed that institutions of higher education and other participants authorized to grow industrial hemp would be eligible for such grant programs.

Institutions of higher education and other participants authorized to carry out agricultural pilot programs under section 7606 may be able to participate in USDA research or other programs to the extent otherwise eligible for participation in those programs

On August 23, 2016, USDA issued an Instruction for the Organic Certification of Industrial Hemp Production (NOP 2040) which informed NOP-accredited certifying agents that industrial hemp grown under State pilot programs may be certified as organic if produced in accordance with USDA organic regulations.

For hemp produced in the United States, only industrial hemp, produced in accordance with the 2014 Farm Bill, as articulated in the Statement of Principles on Industrial Hemp issued on August 12, 2016 by USDA, may be certified as organic, if produced in accordance with USDA organic regulations.

From these actions, it is clear that USDA supports industrial hemp research efforts undertaken in many states. To further support the production of industrial hemp, I ask that you take all necessary actions to provide sound risk management tools for hemp producers and so lay the foundation for reemergence of this important crop. I appreciate the work done by the USDA to improve the variety and availability of crop insurance programs for all U.S. farmers and look forward to working with you on this issue.