Department of Agriculture submits plan for commercial development of hemp
SAN JUAN – The Puerto Rico Hemp Licensing and Inspection Office (OLIC by its Spanish acronym) submitted for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approval a plan for the commercial development of this new agricultural industry, pursuant to the Farm Bill of 2018, this, the secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Carlos Flores Ortega, announced Tuesday.
“This plant, of the cannabis family, but without the psychoactive properties that restrict its cultivation, was released from federal restrictions so it can now be grown under USDA production guidelines and within a regulatory framework delegated to the states and territories in the Departments of Agriculture. This means a further advancement within the development of the agricultural plan and a sign of the commitment to increase our agricultural activity,” the secretary said in a communication.
In his letter sent to the U.S. Agriculture Secretary George Ervin “Sonny” Perdue, Flores Ortega recognized the challenge and at the same time the opportunity that this industry represents for farmers on the island who have been severely affected by hurricanes, earthquakes and Covid-19.
“A new generation of farmers and entrepreneurs understand that hemp will provide a great alternative for agriculture, create jobs and improve the quality of life in rural areas of the Island. For that reason, one of my first administrative orders as Secretary of Agriculture was to establish a research program with the University of Puerto Rico based on the 2014 Farm Bill to establish the science and technology guidelines for our tropical climate,” he said.
Flores Ortega assured that the first hemp plantations have already been developed in Puerto Rico with extraordinary results.
“This is a historic moment and we are ready to begin a business plan that complies with all state and federal regulations,” the official said.
The USDA delegated the review and approval of the state plans to the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). Once the plan is submitted for evaluation, the agency will have up to 60 days to issue its comments and approval with or without amendments to the state plan.
The Hemp Licensing and Inspection Office (OLIC) has issued some 65 cultivation licenses and 13 manufacturing licenses under the Hemp Research Pilot Projects. To begin the commercial phase of the industry, the Agriculture Department and the OLIC submitted the State Plan to USDA this week, in compliance with the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018.
This State Plan contains the regulations for the production, manufacture, distribution, import and export of hemp and / or its derived products commercially in Puerto Rico.
“I am satisfied to submit a very complete State Plan and which in my opinion is one of the most competitive of the producing states and countries. It was created with farmers and the private sector always in mind, since these are the true protagonists of the industry. The OLIC will be a regulatory body but also a facilitator to exponentiate the industry. Puerto Rico has all the elements necessary to develop a robust hemp industry and position itself as an important producer and exporter of this new raw material at a global level,” said agronomist Irving Rodríguez, director of the OLIC.