Hemp production may pave the road to greater economic sovereignty for the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe, whose plans to grow hemp on its reservation in South Dakota received federal approval last week.
While the Tribe is celebrating this substantial end-of-year success, it wasn’t a wide-open highway to garnering a greenlight from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Back in June, the Tribe responded to the USDA’s failure to take action on its proposal to grow hemp by suing the department and its secretary, Sonny Perdue.
Now the USDA has announced that the Flandreau Santee Sioux, along with two other Tribes and three states, have received permissions for the domestic production of hemp under the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program.
In addition to the Flandreau Santee Sioux, the USDA handed down the December 27th approvals to the states of Louisiana, New Jersey and Ohio, and the Santa Rosa Cahuilla and La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indian Tribes.
Establishing the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program
The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill) directed USDA to develop a regulatory oversight program for hemp and include provisions for USDA to approve hemp production plans submitted by states and Indian Tribes. Accordingly, on October 31, 2019, USDA issued an interim final rule establishing the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program and the provisions for USDA to approve submitted plans. State and Tribal plans provide details on practices and procedures that enable hemp producers in their jurisdictions to operate according to their individual plans and in compliance with federal laws.
To produce hemp, growers must be licensed or authorized under a state, Tribe, or USDA production program. The program a grower is licensed under depends on the location of the hemp growing facility. If a state or Tribe has an approved plan or is in the process of developing a plan, growers must apply and be licensed or authorized under its hemp program. If a state or Tribe does not have a plan and does not intend to have a plan, growers can apply for a license from USDA.
Two South Dakota Tribes, the Oglala Sioux and Yankton Sioux, continue to await approval for their hemp production plans. This year, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem vetoed the legalization of the production of industrial hemp in the state. Her primary concern is the extra work necessary for law enforcement to determine the difference between hemp and marijuana. But under USDA regulations, Tribes approved to produce hemp are tasked with testing plants to ensure they stay below the legal limit for THC.
The Tribe’s Vice Chairman Andrew Weston told KELOLAND News that “hopefully the state of South Dakota and all interested farmers will follow suit with utilizing hemp as a[n] economic and prosperous crop in their futures as well.” Weston added that the Flandreau Santee Sioux welcomes other Tribal Nations reaching out to his Tribe for assistance in their USDA hemp plan submissions or with any questions regarding hemp production.