“If you want to be incrementally better: Be competitive. If you want to be exponentially better: Be cooperative.” --- anonymous
Last week, representatives from a dozen Vermont businesses, UVM, and state government met around the table to talk hemp.
From my point of view, it was an event of historic significance, twenty-three years in the making.
We were invited to Montpelier to offer our initial feedback on a "preview" version of the (soon to be released) draft Rule that will guide the new Vermont hemp registry program. The rule, constructed over the last several months, establishes the registration and quality control platform for the state's hemp growers and processors.
The goal of the rulemaking process, led by the Agency of Agriculture (VAAFM), has been to clearly define the regulatory framework and product safety guidelines around which our state's federally compliant hemp program is to be built.
Gary Giguere, our host and a VAAFM Section Chief, along with his colleague, Stephanie Smith, Chief Hemp Policy Enforcement Officer, opened the 3-hour meeting and helped set the stage for the group.
"... the face of Vermont agriculture is changing. And we believe that hemp is going to have a role in that (change)." ~ Cary Giguere, Vermont Agency of Agriculture
A common theme expressed by all those in attendance, is that to usher in this change and assure the long-term viability of hemp agriculture and manufacturing, the industry must maintain a strong commitment to product excellence, the environment, and consumer safety.
We also accept, and in fact welcome the Agency of Agriculture's role as the principal regulator of this new industry. Yes, you heard that right.
The official draft rule we’re anxious to see finalized is due to be submitted in a few weeks, starting the clock on a full public comment period. Vermont stakeholders will then have a month to review the draft and provide their input, or suggest changes before the rules or "state plan" are finalized.
Hemp growers and processors in each state with an active hemp program are engaged in a similar process. Once each state plan is finalized, they head to the USDA for review and approval.
Many in the state see hemp as arguably Vermont's newest and most promising agricultural resource. Hemp grows well in the Green Mountain State. And being such a versatile crop, it has many applications across multiple sectors of the economy; from farming to food, and home construction to medicine.
Recent innovations using hemp fiber and hurd also include the production of carbon nanosheet capacitors, bio-plastics and composites, 3D-printer filaments, and oil absorbent materials (to name just a few).
So with all this potential, it might seem odd that many hemp businesses are almost eager in their anticipation of new regulations. But that's exactly what's happening, especially due to the meteoric rise of Vermont's hemp-CBD products sector.
The reason for this explosion? It's a perfect storm created by (a) Vermont's Act 143; which requires revamping the state's hemp registration program, (b) passage of the 2018 Farm Bill that overturned 50 years of hemp prohibition, and (c) the boom in the number of Vermont farms, businesses and customers embracing hemp-CBD (whose use is attributed to the relief of many persistent health problems.)
Building the Vermont Brand of Quality Hemp Products
Test and Verify. The message is loud and clear from Vermont CBD and hemp food producers, farmers, and the end consumer; we only win in the hemp marketplace when our products and practices are held to the highest standard. That standard must include the appropriate methods, tests, verification and labeling for -
It all starts in the soil, where Vermont farms have the opportunity to promote and capitalize on their certified Organic bona fides. Organic practices build healthy soils and ecosystems, protect water quality and worker safety, and ensure that nothing artificial goes into or ends up in the finished product.
It is this author's opinion (not necessarily the consensus of Vermont hemp producers) that USDA Organic certification is Step 1 in the 3rd-party verification process that's needed to ensure and promote the Vermont brand of quality hemp products. I'm not asserting this as a requirement, but it would strengthen the value proposition. For sure.
Clear consensus by the group on the pre-draft rule was expressed in several key areas during the hemp stakeholders' meeting. Here are a few of the most compelling features of the upcoming draft rule that the group weighed in on:
Much will be said and written in the coming weeks about the rulemaking process for establishing Vermont's federally compliant hemp registry program.
I wanted to get a jump on it, by highlighting key areas of interest among Vermont hemp CBD and food businesses. We expect the draft rule will be released before the end of February. I hope this article will inspire others to take an active role in the public comment period, once the draft hemp rule is in circulation. Stay tuned.
As always, your comments and questions are most welcome! Please chime in below.
Aerial photo of CBD field, ©Luce Farm, Stockbridge, Vermont. Click here to check Luce Farm's online CBD apothecary.
I'm Netaka, friends call me Tak ("tock"). I write from Vermont and curate Tak About Hemp.