In a significant move highlighting the growing recognition of hemp as a valuable commodity, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced the renaming of a trade advisory committee to prominently feature hemp among a select group of specialty crops. This symbolic gesture reflects the agency’s evolving understanding of cannabis and its derivatives, such as CBD, as an integral part of the agricultural landscape. With hemp’s legalization under the 2018 Farm Bill, USDA has been actively engaged in supporting businesses and normalizing the cultivation and trade of this versatile crop.
The newly renamed Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee (ATAC) for Trade in Tobacco, Cotton, Peanuts, and Hemp now emphasizes the significance of hemp within the committee’s purview. While USDA had already included a representative from the hemp industry in the committee, this formal renaming underscores the agency’s recognition of hemp as an agricultural and trade commodity. The move marks a historic moment for the hemp industry, demonstrating its mainstream acceptance within the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office.
The ATACs, jointly appointed by USDA and the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), play a crucial role in providing policy advice, technical recommendations, and trade-related insights. They offer expertise on trade barriers, negotiation of trade agreements, and the implementation of existing trade agreements affecting food and agricultural products. The committees are responsible for reviewing sensitive trade policy information, commenting on trade negotiations, and submitting reports on trade agreements to the President, Congress, USTR, and USDA.
As USDA seeks nominations for members of the ATACs and its Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee (APAC), the hemp industry eagerly anticipates the upcoming 2023 Farm Bill discussions. Stakeholders hope that this legislative opportunity will lead to further advancements in federal hemp policies and alleviate restrictions for farmers and manufacturers. The hemp sector faced economic challenges last year, with USDA data indicating a significant decline in its value across various metrics. Many attribute this downturn to the absence of clear Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations for marketing valuable hemp derivative products, particularly CBD oil. The FDA has indicated that congressional intervention is necessary to establish comprehensive rules.
USDA’s decision to rename the trade advisory committee to prominently feature hemp is a landmark moment for the industry. This symbolic gesture reflects the agency’s recognition of hemp’s unique value as a specialty crop and its commitment to supporting its growth and normalization. As the hemp sector navigates challenges and awaits regulatory clarity, stakeholders remain hopeful that the forthcoming Farm Bill discussions will pave the way for a more favorable landscape for hemp cultivation, manufacturing, and trade.