Hemp Construction Trade Group Aims to Ease USDA Regulations for Producers

By William Sumner, Hemp Content Manager, New Frontier Data

When the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its interim hemp regulations, much of the public reaction was centered around how it would affect those cultivating for CBD production. Yet, the hemp industry is much more diverse than CBD. While many of the CBD industry’s objections have been raised, some stakeholders warn that issues affecting hemp fiber producers have been often ignored.

Hemp Fiber vs. CBD

Bob Escher is the President of the U.S. Hemp Building Association. An architect by trade, he has spent much of his career designing homes, entering the hemp industry in 2017. That same year, his Denver-based Escher Design Inc. built the first permitted structure made with hempcrete, a biocomposite material made of hemp hurds and lime.

His son, Alex Escher, is the founder of Hemp Hollow Consulting, a company dedicated to creating a network of farmer facing businesses and establishing a reliable, global supply chain for the green building sector. While the 2018 Farm Bill was an historic piece of legislation, the younger Escher said,  both the Farm Bill and the subsequent USDA regulations fail to account for the diversity of industrial applications that hemp has to offer. “There’s no differentiation in the regulations of the CBD plant versus the fiber plant,” he explained. “In fact, the farm bill doesn’t mention CBD at any point. All of them are lumped together in the same regulatory framework.”

The consequence of a one-size-fits-all approach to hemp policy is that farmers growing for industrial applications (e.g., hemp fiber) are forced to abide by the same rules as those cultivating hemp for human consumption. That means that producers of hemp fibers are disallowed certain farming practices or pesticides which would be acceptable for industrial cultivation.

Additionally, producers of hemp fiber must follow strict testing requirements handed down by the USDA, though their plants are not being grown for CBD.

“If you’ve looked at the industry, adhering to the testing standards is very expensive, very stressful, and very time-consuming for the farmers,” added Alex Escher. “This is a roadblock that I feel should not be there at all.”

Advocating for Hemp Fiber

Hoping to change the federal government’s approach, the Eschers are spearheading lobbying efforts to have it change its monolithic stance, and make it easier for hemp fiber products to hit the market.

Bob Escher said they are “working with the federal government to have hempcrete designated as a certified building material so that architects and builders can specify it with confidence that it will meet certain criteria.”

On their wish list is a loosening of restrictions – including eliminating testing requirements – for producers growing hemp for industrial purposes, though they recognize the challenges that would entail.

“I would like to see that if you’re growing hemp for fiber, you don’t have to test for delta-9 or anything else,” explained Alex Escher. “But that’s probably going to take a while for people and government agencies to accept.”