The legalization of industrial hemp production in the 2018 Farm Bill is a likely boon for farmers grappling with the changing agricultural landscape. Given the strong economic forecasts for hemp production, pesticide registrants are intensifying their interest in gaining approvals for use of their products on hemp. Hemp farmers are also pressing for expanded crop protection tools needed to help them grow the valuable crop.
On Aug. 23, 2019, the EPA announced the receipt of 10 pesticide applications to expand their use to hemp: four from Agro Logistic Systems, Inc., two from Marrone Bio Innovations, and four from Hawthorne Hydroponics LLC, all located in California. The applications ask EPA to add hemp as a new pesticide application site to the labeling of currently-registered pesticide products.
Currently, there are only six federally-registered pesticide products that list hemp as a pesticide application site on the label. However, these products do not contain food tolerances for residue levels because they were registered before the legalization of hemp in the 2018 Farm Bill. The EPA previously established food tolerance exemptions for all 10 pesticides in the Aug. 23, 2019, announcement. This exemption means the EPA determined, after review of the science, that the residues in the listed pesticides are safe under any reasonably foreseeable circumstances when used as directed.
An exemption from food tolerance requirements is critical for any company seeking to incorporate hemp or hemp-derivatives, like cannabidiol (CBD), into food or medicines. CBD has been in the news frequently due to its alleged pain-relieving and other therapeutic properties. Absent a food tolerance or an exemption from food tolerance requirements, companies cannot legally incorporate pesticide-treated agricultural products into foods or medicines. The EPA’s decision regarding these 10 pesticide applications will have a profound effect on any business seeking to incorporate hemp products into its production line – food or otherwise, along with hemp farmers and pesticide manufacturers.
The deadline for submission of comments is Monday, Sept. 23, 2019. They may be submitted electronically via the Federal eRulemaking Portal, using the docket ID EPA-HQ-OPP-2019-0369-0001, or via mail: OPP Docket, Environmental Protection Agency Docket Center (EPA/DC), (28221T), 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20460-0001.