USDA Seeks Public Comment on Survey of 18,000 Hemp Producers

Heady Vermont Staff 28 Oct 2020

The U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to distribute a survey across the country in a bid to understand how thousands of hemp businesses are finding the production, marketing and sale of hemp. The insights gained, the agency says, will help it to regulate the sector more meaningfully.

In partnership with the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture and the University of Kentucky, the federal agency intends to “conduct a survey to collect information from U.S. hemp producers on current production costs, production practices, and marketing practices,” according to an October 16 notice published in the Federal Register.

“The survey will also be administered to Tribes that have approved hemp production programs, in order to get input from tribal hemp production,” the department said.

However, the federal agency needs to seek permission from the White House Office of Budget and Management before sending out the survey. For this reason, the agency will open a 60-day window within which stakeholders can give feedback about the specific aspects that the USDA wants to include in its survey.

If the agency gets the authorization that it is seeking, it will encourage about 18,000 hemp farmers to take the survey and provide responses. The survey itself will be divided into four main parts, and it will take approximately half an hour to complete.

The first section focuses on gathering information about the location in which hemp production was done, the acreage for which a farmer obtained a license, the acreage they actually planted, and the acreage they harvested. This information will be categorized according to the end-purpose for which the hemp was grown, such as for fiber and CBD extraction.

The second section pays attention to the production practices and costs. Here, questions around fertilizers, seeds, labor, testing and licensing fees will be provided. Detailed questions about the various types of hemp will be presented in order to get insights about the different cost implications.

Marketing and contracting practices will be another section of the survey. Insights sought here include those about the farmgate prices of different end-use hemp crops, storage, contract structures and farmers’ impressions about contract farming of hemp.

The final section is intended to collect demographic information on issues like race, gender, age, education level, household sizes and how much experience the farmer has in agriculture.

The USDA says that the data it collects from this survey will be useful in forecasting agricultural activity in the hemp sector and the attendant costs from a state level to the regional and national level. The University of Kentucky is expected to analyze the survey results and then compile a report which will be submitted to the USDA for further analysis and implementation.

The federal agency had recently closed an extension to the window within which hemp industry stakeholders could submit their comments about the interim final rules for hemp production. All indications show that the USDA is taking the pushback from the industry seriously, and the additional information it seeks could be instrumental in shaping how the agency responds to the concerns raised.

The agency is asking the public to comment on:

  1. Whether this collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the agency’s functions, including whether the data has practical utility.
  2. The accuracy of the agency’s estimate of the burden of collecting information, including the validity of the methodology and assumptions used.
  3. The ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information collected; and
  4. The ways to minimize the burden of collecting information on those who respond, including using appropriately automated, electronic, mechanical, or other technological collection techniques or other forms of information technology.

Industry members have until Dec. 15 to provide public comments on the planned survey. Check out instructions for providing comment, as outlined on the notice page Regulations.Gov.

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