Industrial hemp has been one of the most exciting and talked-about crops in Virginia this past year. The inclusion of hemp in the 2018 farm bill had many people — both inside and outside the agriculture sector – racing to figure out the potential market for this agricultural product. The March 2019 passage of hemp legislation in Virginia only added to this fervor.
As of July 3, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) has issued 847 Industrial Hemp Grower Registrations, 161 Industrial Hemp Processor Registrations, and 36 Industrial Hemp Dealer Registrations. Grower registration applications indicate that these Registered Industrial Hemp Growers plan to plant over 8,500 acres in industrial hemp this growing season.
Proponents of industrial hemp continue to grow more optimistic about hemp as a potential game-changer for Virginia agriculture in many parts of the Commonwealth. The only hindrance to the crop seems to be an ever-changing regulatory environment as states try to keep up with Federal law and Agency directives.
On May 16, 2019, VDACS Commissioner Jewel Bronaugh distributed a letter to those who were registered as industrial hemp processors advising that, due to both federal and state food safety-related laws and limitations that currently exist therein, VDACS was not able to approve the manufacture, distribution, or sale of (i) a food product or dietary supplement containing a hemp-derived extract, including CBD oil, or (ii) a hemp-derived extract intended for human consumption that is produced by a Registered Industrial Hemp Processor. Many processors (and growers) expressed concern and frustration over VDACS’s advisement and worried that the determination would cause Virginia to lose market share and a competitive advantage over other hemp producing states.
In light of this feedback, and out of concern for public safety, the Northam Administration has authorized VDACS to join those states who have begun to address product quality and consumer safety concerns through the regulation of hemp products intended for human consumption while supporting the responsible development of a burgeoning industry. VDACS will treat hemp-derived extracts intended for human consumption as approved food additives and will place qualifying Registered Industrial Hemp Processors under food safety inspection so that inspected and approved processors may manufacture a hemp-derived extract intended for human consumption.
Section 2.2-103(A) of the Code of Virginia authorizes the Governor to formulate policies of the executive branch. Under this authority, the Northam Administration has formulated a policy for VDACS to follow in order to provide some regulatory oversight over hemp-derived extracts intended for human consumption.
VDACS’s Food Safety Program administers the Virginia Food and Drink Law and regulations. A subsequent letter from the Food Safety Program will go out soon to registered processers that will explain the steps you should follow if you would like to manufacture a product intended for human consumption.
Farm Bureau is appreciative to the Northam Administration and VDACS for their willingness to provide a path forward for Registered Industrial Hemp Processors interested in producing hemp-derived extracts intended for human consumption. Keeping Virginia agriculture competitive and on the forefront of this burgeoning industry is important for our economy and for the viability of family farms. We will continue to keep you informed as this situation develops.