Hemp Growers Get a Boost with USDA’s Final Production Rule

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued its final rule on domestic hemp production, introducing several improvements to reduce the regulatory burden on farmers.

The final rule was announced Jan. 15 and replaces the interim final rule published Oct. 31, 2019. Regulations outlined in USDA’s final rule will go into effect March 22.

Under the final rule, farmers now have increased flexibility when sampling their crop for THC levels. Samples may be collected 5 to 8 inches from the crop’s main stem, terminal buds and central colas, which are stems that could develop into a bud.

Under the interim rule, sampling procedures varied among states, but under the final rule they will be uniform across the U.S. The new measurement requirements will allow more plant material to be used during the sampling process, which could help limit crops from exceeding allowable THC limits.

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Ag Leaders Anticipate Redistricting Commission’s Impact on Rural Virginia

As populations shift from rural to urban areas and political maps are reexamined, agricultural advocates hope farmers and rural Virginians can maintain a cohesive voice.

A diverse group of eight Virginians will join eight legislators in serving on the state’s new redistricting commission. They soon will be tasked with redrawing the state’s political maps using new U.S. Census data.

A panel of retired judges chose 64 finalists from 1,200 applicants selected by General Assembly leaders. The judges then picked six men and two women of varied race, age, political affiliation and geographical location to fill the eight citizen seats on the 16-member commission.

The commission’s eight legislative seats were chosen by the General Assembly’s four political caucuses and also represent the state’s geographical makeup.

Del. Les Adams, R- Chatham, was one of the two House Republicans appointed to a seat on the commission. He represents Henry and Pittsylvania counties, where his father and grandfather farmed. He said the constitutional amendment creating a redistricting commission was widely endorsed.

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Grain Growers Urged to Watch for Rapid Price Changes

Last year’s enormous agricultural commodity price drops due to the COVID-19 pandemic were a “black swan” event, said Dr. David Kohl, Virginia Tech professor emeritus of agricultural finance and small business management.

Speaking at the virtual 2021 Virginia Grain and Soybean Annual Conference, Kohl said unanticipated world events tend to occur at least once a decade, and grain farmers need to prepare for rapid changes this year.

“We’re going to have inflation creep, particularly in expenses and machinery,” he noted. “Some of this volatility will be extreme. We can’t change what comes out of China or election results. The things we can control are our business—production, finance, marketing. Really good managers zero in on the things you can control in your business.”

The economic volatility Kohl expects will offer opportunities for some producers to prosper, but only if they’re willing to take chances on new business. “In this management transition period, entrepreneurs are the ones who will thrive,” he said.

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Farmers Keeping an Eye on First USMCA Challenge

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative launched an enforcement action against Canada in December, and farmers and agricultural organizations are eagerly waiting to see how the disagreement unfolds under the new Biden administration.

“This is the first test of the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, and we will be watching it closely for how each side handles the dispute and what possible impacts will trickle down to producers,” said Ben Rowe, national affairs coordinator for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.

Former USTR Robert Lighthizer brought the enforcement action against Canada, challenging its allocation of negotiated dairy tariff-rate quotas for dairy products. Under the USMCA agreement, Canada can impose TRQs at specific thresholds, setting limits on the quantity of certain dairy products that can be imported at a lower tax rate.

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