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Orangeburg County Hemp (copy)

Hemp was grown in Orangeburg County in 2019 for the second straight year as part of a pilot program.

COLUMBIA – South Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers is asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to revise its national regulatory framework for hemp to better set up South Carolina’s Hemp Farming Program for success.

CBD alarm bells: No need

USDA released its interim final rule on hemp on Oct. 31, 2019, and the South Carolina Department of Agriculture is in the process of writing a state plan that complies with the federal rule.

However, SCDA has several concerns about testing requirements in the federal rule, and has formally submitted comments to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue asking that they be reconsidered.

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For example, the federal rule mandates that all hemp fields be sampled by SCDA-designated staff and tested by a DEA-registered laboratory within 15 days prior to harvest, a window SCDA feels is too narrow. Farmers are at the mercy of weather conditions, while laboratories are likely to experience back-ups during harvest season, and SCDA has not been given any funding to administer this testing.

“We believe that several provisions in the interim final rule lack the flexibility necessary for our farmers to be profitable and for SCDA to be able to implement a successful hemp program,” Weathers wrote.

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Launched in 2018, South Carolina’s hemp program has grown each year, with 114 farmers and 43 hemp processors permitted in 2019. SCDA plans to begin accepting applications for the 2020 growing season on Feb. 1. More information about South Carolina’s Hemp Farming program can be found at agriculture.sc.gov/hemp.

Animal feed

The SCDA is taking steps to notify consumers and animal feed manufacturers that hemp and cannabidiol (CBD) are not permitted ingredients in animal feed products in South Carolina.

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All commercial animal feed products sold in South Carolina must be registered and renewed annually with SCDA, a process that allows the agency to review feed products to make sure they are properly labeled and contain only ingredients that are approved for use in animal feed.

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Ingredients used in animal feed in the United States undergo a scientific review by the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine prior to being allowed for sale or distribution in the US. Currently, hemp and CBD have not undergone that review. The FDA affirmed its position in a statement released November 25, 2019: “Based on the lack of scientific information supporting the safety of CBD in food, the FDA … cannot conclude that CBD is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) among qualified experts for its use in human or animal food.”

Over the past year, SCDA has been educating store owners that commercial feed products containing hemp and CBD are illegal and should not be sold.

SCDA is sending manufacturers a formal letter notifying them when illegal products are found in distribution. A company will have the option to reformulate the product to remove the hemp and/or CBD ingredient and submit a formal registration application. Failure to do so within the required time frame may result in further regulatory action.

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