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In 1999, Dennis Kulesza bought a fifty acre farm in Pittsfield, Vermont. The farm had been abandoned since the 1960s and the land was happily doing its own natural thang. It wasn’t until the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill that Dennis was able to legally grow CBD-rich cannabis (hemp)…  

A landmark legislation denoting the changing cultural perceptions of marijuana and its usages, the farm bill allowed hemp to be grown federally for the first time since 1937. A potential lifeline for small, independent farmers, Dennis dug into the prospect acquainting himself with the Vermont cultivation rules, researching the market, retaining a law firm, hiring consultants and ultimately forming a business entity.

He invested in the land, purchasing all of the necessary equipment whilst ensuring the farm would run sustainably—everything from installing a solar array to power the processing facility with renewable energy to salvaging and restoring the existing circa 1865 morticed and tenon barn. He based his entire business plan on the rules set by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture Food and Markets.

“I have been working my butt off since then. I was happy to do all of this because under the Vermont AAFM rules I envisioned an opportunity to develop a sustainable business.”

A spectre looms

October 31st, 2019, saw the release of the USDA’s interim final rules for the production of domestic hemp…and all has changed. In a move that could bankrupt or potentially result in the prosecution of hemp farmers, the USDA wants to alter the definition of hemp. Currently hemp is defined as cannabis with less than 0.3% d-9 THC, the compound that gets you high. The USDA wants to define hemp as cannabis with a Total THC of 0.3%. This would mean including other THC compounds, including ones that don’t get you high, in the calculation.

Essentially, acres of currently compliant hemp will become illegal. Whole crops will need to be destroyed and with just one growing season, farmers will be left with nothing to show for their labour. In short, this new legislation will make it impossible for Northeast hemp growing farmers to survive financially. “This is not the limit we based our business model on. Most people were never aware the rule was even published by the time the comment period ended.” 

Northeast hemp farmers grow hemp for cannabinoids as the season does not make it financially feasible to grow hemp for fiber. Farmers like Dennis will have to grow at least three times as many plants under the USDA rule to produce the same amount of CBD that they get out of a single plant now—under the newly proposed legislation, it will be virtually impossible to sustain a hemp agricultural business in the northeast. 

 

Dennis tending to the Suver Haze crop, sustainably grown and hand-nurtured by the farmer himself.

Is farming in the northeast doomed?

“Now I am sad to say that the ray of hope will be gone if the interim rule goes into effect in its current form,” Dennis exclaimed. “Jobs will be lost, tax revenue will be lost and farming in the Northeast will continue to take its long downward spiral to extinction.”

It is very clear that growing hemp (under the old conditions) provided a real opportunity for independent local farmers to be able to produce profitable, sustainable, and quality crops, so…what’s the solution?

Not changing the rule during this time of current crisis as well as giving proper consultation to farmers and allowing time to provide solutions and to express their views. 

Dennis suggests that testing laboratories should be permitted to extract THCa from crop when processed, which can be used for medical marijuana to support hospitals and dispensaries. “Hemp farmers don’t want this component and they don’t need this component. This component could be processed into medicine and be used to treat veterans and other patients who could not otherwise afford treatment.”

Farmer Dennis grows some of the finest Suver Haze in the country because of his passion about the purity and potency of his CBD-rich hemp. Organically grown on soil that has been untouched for 50 years, his plants are especially vibrant and healthy. The hand cut flower is delicately dried and cured in his climate controlled, solar powered facility. Packed in nitrogen for freshness, the first time you try his crop you’ll know there is just something so special about it—something that only comes from respectful cultivation, passion and diligence.We depend on our government agencies to protect us, not to harm us. This new interim rule does not protect U.S. citizens. It only harms them.”

Our Call To Action!

  1. Sign the Petition Supporting 1% THC Definition for Hemp here.
  2. Help save local, independent farms. Support organizations for a common sense approach that ensures small scale farmers are granted greater variables in THC here.
  3. Write to the USDA ( farmbill.hemp@usda.gov ) raising the concern that the new interim rule will harm the small scale farmers in the USA, the ones who have after many years found a lifeline in cultivating hemp.