The organic certification of hemp has been a confusing and sometimes controversial topic. Certification of hemp is relatively new in the United States and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has changed their stance on hemp certification many times. The ambiguity of organic hemp has perplexed both hemp farmers and consumers for the past few years.
As a consumer of hemp-derived CBD, you may be wondering: should hemp be certified organic? Let’s discuss the timeline of hemp certification and the controversy surrounding organic hemp.
Can Hemp be Certified Organic?
Under the 2014 Farm Bill, institutions of higher education and state departments of agriculture are authorized to establish industrial hemp research pilot programs in states where the production of industrial hemp is legal. The Farm Bill allowed for these pilot programs to exist but did not provide implementation details for agencies such as the USDA. This gave agencies like the USDA room for interpretation.
This may be cleared up by the 2018 Farm Bill, but that is currently unclear.
At first, a directive from the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) staff allowed hemp to be certified organic by third-party agents. Once a third-party agent is accredited, it has the authority to approve or deny applications for organic certification.
Then, in February 2016, the USDA reversed their decision. At the time, a handful of hemp farms had secured or were in the process of securing, certifications from accredited third-parties.
“Organic certification of industrial hemp production at this time is premature and could be misleading to certified organic operations,” read a USDA statement. “The legality of the various uses of this product has not yet been determined. Until USDA guidance regarding industrial hemp production under the Farm Bill is completed, NOP-accredited certifying agents may not certify the domestic production of industrial hemp.”
This change left farms that secured the certification in a state of uncertainty. It also delegitimatized the legality of hemp, which goes against the 2014 Farm Bill.
To clarify their stance, the USDA, along with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), released a Statement of Principles on Industrial Hemp in August 2016. Under this statement, industrial hemp produced in the United States may be certified as organic if produced in accordance with USDA organic regulations.
This article first appeared on MadeByHemp.com