USDA Green Lights 3 More Tribal Hemp Plans

Three more Tribes recently received USDA approval of their hemp regulatory plans, bringing the total number of approved Tribal plans to 17 since the crop was federally legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill.

The Oglala Sioux Tribe, the Seneca Nation of Indians and the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians got the green light. 

Because food and agriculture are considered essential industries, hemp farmers aren’t likely to be prevented from planting and processing amid the COVID-19 pandemic. That said, implementing the regulatory processes and structures to commence hemp production could face some delays as government attention is increasingly directed to curbing the spread and mitigating the fallout from the coronavirus. 

Oglala Sioux Tribe

The Oglala Sioux Tribe’s approved plan appoints three Tribal members to serve as “Commissioners” and make up its Hemp Regulatory Commission Licensing Board to monitor and enforce compliance with federal law. More details are available here.

Seneca Nation of Indians

The Seneca Nation establishes a Hemp Compliance Administrator (HCA) as the regulatory body for the production of Hemp on Nation Territory. More information is available here.

Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians

The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians’ approved proposal maps out the functions of its Hemp Department, helmed by a Hemp Department Officer. 

The USDA is considering changes to an interim final rule for hemp that it released last year. Yet the department has systematically continued to approve plans submitted by states and Tribes.

A hemp production plan outlines how the Tribe will run its hemp farming business. Key topics covered include requirements for licensing of farmers, prescriptions for record-keeping, plant sampling and testing, procedures for destroying non-compliant plants (those that are found to have a level of THC over the limit), and descriptions of plan violations. Procedures and requirements for inspection, reporting, and information sharing with the USDA are also included in a plan. 

(As opposed to marijuana, hemp does not contain THC — the chemical component that causes a person to become “high” — and hemp is used for a number of commercial purposes, including paper, clothing, food, medicine and fuel. Hemp accounts for nearly $1 billion in annual revenues. Hemp remains controversial, because it’s nearly impossible to distinguish from marijuana plants — which has been an ongoing dispute with law enforcement and regulatory agencies determined to ensure the integrity of crops by those producing it.)

The Oglala Sioux Tribe, the Seneca Nation of Indians and the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians’ approval raises the number of authorized Tribal plans to 17.

The 14 Tribal plans previously approved include: Colorado River Indian Tribes, Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe, Fort Belknap Indian Community, Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska, La Jolla Band of Luiseno Indian Tribes, Otoe-Missouria Tribe, Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, Pueblo of Picuris Tribe, Santa Rosa Cahuilla Indian Tribe, Santee Sioux Nation, Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Tribe, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Yurok Tribe.

Fifteen more Tribal hemp plans are under USDA review, and various other Tribes are drafting plans or resubmitting applications.

Along with the authorization of three more Tribal plans on March 31st, the USDA approved hemp plans for South Carolina and West Virginia, increasing the total number of approved state plans to 14. The two states join Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, Wyoming. The full list is available here. For additional information, visit the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program webpage.