As the hemp industry grows as a legal business, the more the government is going to step in and establish regulations and rules. Different departments get involved at different levels, but when it comes to growing the actual plants, policing falls under the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The creation of USDA sampling agents is the result of language in hemp’s Final Rule, which published in January 2021.
So who are these sampling agents? They can be a law enforcement official, state or tribal employee, lab employee, contractor, or others. While it’s required to get proper training, here’s what they actually do.
A brief history of the USDA
Abraham Lincoln was actually the president who signed the USDA into being. The USDA focuses on a few key areas that touch the lives of US citizens every day in some way. These include:
- Farm production and conservation
- Food, nutrition, and customer services
- Food safety
- Natural resources and environment
- Rural development
- Marketing, research, education, and economics
- Trade and foreign agricultural affairs
Each category directly relates back to agriculture, which hemp is now a part of since its legalization in 2018. Treated differently than other crops because of its risk of going hot, managing hemp doesn’t look the same for farmers used to growing other crops.
Training requirements for a sampling agent
Before you can even fill the role of sampling agent, those interested in the job must go through training. The first requirement for this training is that you’re not a licensed hemp producer. If you’re growing it, you can’t become a sampling agent.
For those that do qualify, training involves four lessons and four assessments. To pass each assessment, you must score at least an 80 percent. Meeting this requirement earns you your certificate of completion.
After that, you’re ready to assume the role of hemp sampling agent.
What a sampling agent does
There’s no secret purpose to what a sampling agent does. Their job is pretty straightforward — they come to a farm and take a sample of your crop. This is then used to test the THC content to officially confirm you’re growing hemp and not marijuana. If your hemp sample tests with a THC level above 0.3 percent, you aren’t growing hemp and remediation may become necessary.
Since farmers can’t harvest their crop without a THC test, a sampling agent is pretty vital to the process.
Strict protocols are in place for the sampling agent. When they arrive on your farm, they’ll enter the growing area and strategically examine it in order to collect samples that fully represent the entire crop.
The standard sampling protocols used during this process, by all sampling agents, offer a confidence level of 95 percent when it comes to the test results.
Where are samples taken from?
All samples get taken from the flowering tops of the hemp plant. A cutting of the top 5-8 inches of the plant is typically taken. This can include some leaves and flowers a little lower down, the bud at the end of the stem, and a part of the stem that could develop into a bud.
Sampling agents use garden pruners or shears to take the sample.
Who pays for the sample agent’s services?
Although it’s required to have a sampling agent come out and test your hemp crop before harvesting it, it’s the responsibility of the licensed producer to pay any fees connected to the service.
Where can I find a list of certified sampling agents?
The USDA maintains a directory of certified sampling agents should you need to find one. You can access the file here.
Understanding how to do things right as a hemp farmer
Since farming hemp is different from working with other crops, you may experience a learning curve as you plant hemp for the first time. To avoid making any mistakes, and potentially losing your crop, it’s best to find knowledgeable industry partners to support you.
That’s what we do at Arbor Vita8. As a processor, wholesaler, and retail vendor, we touch all aspects of the hemp industry. Our seed-to-sale array of services enables us to pass along our experiences and best practices to you, giving you the foundation for a successful grow. Contact us today to learn more.