Rural Vermont’s Formal Comments on the Agency of Agriculture’s Hemp Rules
Read the rules here. Rural Vermont’s comments as submitted 7/5/2019:
COMMENT ON REGISTRATION FEE STRUCTURE:
Rural Vermont understands that the Registration Fee structure for Hemp is not part of the proposed rules however, we feel it is important to register our concern that the $25 registration fee required of someone who wants to simply grow Hemp for personal use is unfair. It is particularly inconsistent given that there is no registration fee for someone growing marijuana for personal use. We recognize that this would require a legislative amendment but feel it would be an important improvement.
COMMENTS ON RULES:
1.1 – Secretary must adopt rules establishing how the Agency will conduct research within this program.
Rural Vermont strongly recommends that VAAFM provide more details in the rules that responds to the preceding statement. We believe it will be very helpful for producers and processors to have a clear understanding of how the VAAFM will be conducting research, what the goals of that research will be and how the results of the research will be made public. In particular, it would be helpful to know how the information and data the proposed rules require being collected will be used. Perhaps a “preamble” to the Rules would be the way to accomplish this.
4.1 (b) - A person whose application is rejected as incomplete may reapply for registration at any time.
What happens to the registration fee if registration is rejected and the registrant chooses not to reapply?
4.1 (e) - Any information provided to the Agency as part of a person’s application may be publicly disclosed and may be provided to law enforcement agencies without notice to the applicant
We understand the tortured history of Hemp but no other agricultural product is subjected to such requirements. We believe it is very unreasonable to have information provided through the registration process be made publicly available and especially without notice to the registrants in advance. We strongly recommend that if this information is going to be made available a.) It is made available only upon request and b.) that fact be prominently included in the Hemp Registration form.
4.3 - A person convicted of a felony relating to a controlled substance under state or federal law before, on, or after December 20, 2019 shall be ineligible to register with the Hemp Program during the 10-year period following the date of the conviction unless the person has lawfully registered with the Hemp Program prior to this date.
Rural Vermont objects to this provision in the Rules. We understand this section is included because it corresponds to a specific provision in the 2018 Farm Bill, (Title X, Sec.10113, pg. 432) but it's an unjust and outdated provision and one that Vermont does not support. We respectfully request this provision be removed from Vermont's Hemp Program Rules. Furthermore, we believe that if USDA rejects the VT Hemp Program Plan for not including language that excludes convicted drug felons from participating in VT's hemp program, that we stand our ground on the principle that those who have already "done their time" have every right to participate in the growth of a legal industry involving an agricultural commodity. Furthermore, “ex post facto” laws (those that impose new punishment for past offenses) are specifically forbidden by the United States Constitution in Article 1, Section 9, Clause 3 (with respect to federal laws) and Article 1, Section 10 (with respect to state laws. It is time to return Hemp to its former status as a valuable agricultural crop and treat it like any other crop.
5.1 - A Grower is responsible for demonstrating compliance with the acceptable potency level for hemp crops offered for sale or transferred to a Processor or the public.
Rural Vermont believes this rule needs more clarity. For example: What responsibility does the grower bear if they are growing from clones that were certified as meeting the acceptable potency level? We believe it would be helpful to provide some guidance regarding at what point in the growing process the hemp crop should be tested for potency.
5.3 - A Grower of hemp crops produced outdoors for seed must notify all Growers of biomass and flower within a radius of 5 miles of their cultivation areas. The Agency will provide names and contact information to the Grower based on previous year Registrants.
Rural Vermont is also concerned about potential conflicts between growers of hemp and neighboring growers of medicinal/recreational cannabis.
5.4 (b) - Offer a list of any pesticides used in the cultivation of the hemp crops, clones, or plants.
Rural Vermont is wondering whether this disclosure applies to all the items on the list that is provided by VAAFM of ACTIVE INGREDIENTS ALLOWED FOR INDUSTRIAL HEMP CULTIVATION.
We are particularly concerned about the inclusion of “Azamax” (active ingredient Azadirachtin). Last year the state of Oregon identified this product as “misbranded” and adulterated with pesticide residues. Please see this Pesticide Advisory:
5.6 (b) iii - A Grower shall maintain records of all transfers of hemp crops to a Processor or out-of-state recipient. The records shall be kept by harvest lot number and shall include: an estimate of the amount of hemp transferred on a dry weight basis in pounds.
Rural Vermont is concerned that this requirement will be very difficult to do accurately and we wonder about the value. Is it to ensure checks and balances with processor's reporting? The product is being weighed and reported by the processor and it seems like that is the information that should be collected, not a vague guess from the grower when they've already reported on acreage in production, particularly if off-base estimate would result in VAAFM action. It seems to us that if the grower records the number of plants transferred that would be a more useful metric to track – especially for the VAAFM’s research goals.
6.2 - A Processor shall only use lipid, ethanol, or carbon dioxide (CO2) botanical extraction methods, or other extraction methods for which the Processor has received written approval from the Agency.
Rural Vermont is wondering what other methods the Agency is considering for approval. Will these “other methods” be reported/published?
6.4 - A Processor may process hemp crops only at registered processing sites. A Processor must report in writing to the Agency a closure of a processing site within business 10 days of its closure.
Rural Vermont respectfully suggests that the requirement for reporting on a processing site closure be within 30 days.
7.1 A Grower must test hemp crops for compliance with these rules.
Rural Vermont wishes to raise the same concern we noted in our comment on Sec. 5.1. We believe this rule needs more clarity. For example: What responsibility does the grower bear if they are growing from clones that were certified as meeting the acceptable potency level? We believe it would be helpful to provide some guidance or BMPs regarding at what point in the growing process the hemp crop should be tested for potency.
7.3 - A Grower may propose testing parameters for pesticides, heavy metals, mycotoxins, and bacterial and fungal contaminants that are based on a risk analysis and use for approval by the Agency.
Rural Vermont appreciates that this provision allows for innovation coming from the Hemp industry but we believe the VAAFM needs to specify how such approval of testing parameters will occur and how they will be published.
8.2 - A Processor may propose testing parameters for pesticides, heavy metals, mycotoxins, and bacterial and fungal contaminants that are based on a risk analysis, the stage of the manufacturing process, and delivery method (inhalant, ingestion, or absorption) for approval by the Agency.
As in our comment on Sec. 7.3, Rural Vermont appreciates that this provision allows for innovation coming from the Hemp industry but we believe the VAAFM needs to specify how such approval of testing parameters will occur and how they will be published.
10.3 (b) Within 30 days of receiving the request for a confirmed crop or product, the Agency will generate a confirmation that may accompany the shipment of the hemp crop, hemp product, or hemp-infused product.
Rural Vermont would like to express concern that having to wait 30 days for a confirmation may not be practical for many hemp businesses. Especially during this early stage of the industry and given the variations in state laws, it seems likely that hemp businesses may find it prudent to seek such confirmation to protect their shipments and their employees. We respectfully suggest that 10 days would be more practical.
12.4 The Registrant must apply for certification of meeting all the requirements of Vermont’s Hemp brand annually to the Agency, using forms provided by the Agency.
Rural Vermont understands that this portion of the Rules does not go into effect until 7/1/20 but we feel that more information about any cost or time frame that will be involved with such certification needs to be disclosed in these rules now so growers and processors can incorporate it into their business plans.
13.3 - The Agency may inspect any retail location offering hemp products or hemp-infused products. This inspection may include the taking of samples of such products.
Rural Vermont feels it is important that these Rules disclose under what authority VAAFM will be conducting inspections of retail establishments that offer hemp products, given that under the provisions of Sec. 2.2 registration is not required of retailers.