Hemp program updates clear first round

Lawmakers advanced a bill March 4 that would update the Nebraska Hemp Farming Act to harmonize it with new federal regulations.

Sen. Steve Halloran
Sen. Steve Halloran

Congress legalized the cultivation and sale of hemp with the 2018 Farm Bill. States that wish to regulate hemp production first must submit a plan to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for approval.

The Nebraska Hemp Farming Act, which the Legislature passed last year, requires the state Department of Agriculture to submit such a state plan to the USDA and to establish, operate and administer a program to license and regulate those who cultivate, process, handle or broker hemp.

Sen. Steve Halloran, sponsor of LB1152, said the bill would make the act consistent with state plan specifications in a USDA interim rule published last October and also make it easier for the state Department of Agriculture to administer the program.

He said the bill would reference the federal rule’s definition of “acceptable hemp THC level.” It also would require testing laboratories to measure the total THC in a hemp sample and to report a measurement of uncertainty along with the test results.

Halloran said LB1152 also would define negligent and nonnegligent violations of the act and clarify that the presence of uncultivated feral hemp is not considered cultivation for purposes of the act.

Additionally, the bill would require licensees to notify the department of the estimated date that hemp will be transported from a registered site at least seven days prior to shipment.

An Agriculture Committee amendment, adopted 36-2, would remove this provision.

“Testimony in the committee was very adamant that this would be impractical,” Halloran said.

Instead, the amendment would require licensees to maintain a record of hemp shipments shipped from or received by the licensee. It also would:
• require the department to receive and process all completed license applications and issue licenses to qualified applicants;
• clarify that the lot represented by a hemp sample must be harvested within 15 days; and
• authorize the Nebraska Hemp Commission to preserve and develop certain Nebraska heirloom hemp varieties.

Following adoption of the committee amendment, senators voted 37-2 to advance the bill to select file.

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