Flandreau Tribe Sued USDA Over Failure to Take Action on its Hemp Production Plan, Judge Denies Tribe’s Injunction

In early March, the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe sent its proposal to grow hemp on its reservation in South Dakota to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, tasked with overseeing the hemp industry under the 2018 Farm Bill. By law, the USDA is required to approve or disapprove the plan no later than 60 days after receipt. The Tribe responded to the USDA’s failure to take action by suing the department and its secretary, Sonny Perdue.

“…A delay in approval of the Tribal plan and unlawfully withholding Tribal authority curtails receipt of the Tribal revenue from hemp production at grave cost to Tribal members, putting Tribal members’ health, safety, and welfare at risk,” states the Tribe’s May 23 complaint.

The Tribe then filed an emergency motion for a preliminary injunction against the USDA, asking the court to allow the Tribe’s plans to grow hemp to move forward. But Federal Judge Karen Schrier denied the Tribe’s request Thursday.  

Now the Tribe must continue to wait until the case, Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe v. United States Department of Agriculture, concludes or until the USDA approves the Tribe’s proposed hemp production plan.

The Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe has requested for “primary regulatory authority over the production of hemp on its reservation.” The Tribe’s 59-page proposal to the USDA includes an Industrial Hemp Ordinance, codified under Title 30 of the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe Tribal Law and Order Code. The plans also contain aerial maps that identify the three locations where the Tribe intends to grow industrial hemp on its reservation.

The USDA claims its review process was slowed due to the recent government shutdown, and the department has yet to establish industrial hemp regulations. Until those regulations are established, the department cannot approve any plans, the USDA states.