Puerto Rico Agriculture Secretary Carlos Flores-Ortega said the agency should be ready in June to submit a draft of the proposed regulations for commercial production of industrial hemp on the island.
In an interview on 1140, during the “En Una Hora” program — in which News is my Business participates — the government official said establishing a local hemp industry is part of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s administration’s innovation strategies for agriculture.
Puerto Rico’s state plan will go to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for its evaluation next month, Flores said.
The federal agency then has 60 days to comment and return it to the local agency, which will then begin a number of processes, namely registration, permits, inspection and certification.
“The department had begun this more than two years ago, with the creation of a research program jointly with the University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez to conduct our own tests as to the best places to sow hemp, the distance between plants, and possible plagues that could affect the crops,” he said in the interview.
“That was something we had to do prior to having the regulations,” he said.
According to The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, known as the 2018 Farm Bill, the USDA has to issue regulations and guidance for commercial hemp production. In a notice posted on its website in February 2019, the USDA confirmed it “has begun the process to gather information for rulemaking.”
“Once complete, this information will be used to formulate regulations that will include specific details for both federally regulated hemp production and a process for the submission of State, and Indian tribal plans to USDA,” it added.
“It is USDA’s intention to issue regulations in the Fall of 2019 to accommodate the 2020 planting season,” the agency confirmed.
At least six states — Alaska, Arizona, Kansas, Missouri, New Jersey and Oklahoma — enacted legislation in 2018 establishing hemp research and industrial hemp pilot programs, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.