By Casper Star Tribune, AP

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) — Agriculture officials expect Wyoming farmers won’t be able to start growing hemp until next year.

The Casper Star-Tribune reported Monday that the US Department of Agriculture will not review state plans for hemp growing until it finalizes rules for the industry.

State Department of Agriculture spokesman Derek Grant says the department has reached out to the federal agency several times in recent months about the status of the hemp program.

He says the agency has told the state it’s developing the rules and hopes to have them ready by this fall.

State lawmakers voted to legalized hemp this past winter, aiming for the crop to provide a new economic opportunity for Wyoming farmers.

The office of Governor Mark Gordon and the Wyoming Department of Agriculture acknowledged a high level of statewide interest in the program, authorized by the legislature with the passage of House Bill 171 during the 2019 session. The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (also known as the 2018 Farm Bill) removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, authorizing a federal hemp program and allowing for state-delegated authority.

“Wyoming is doing everything we can to launch the hemp industry,” Gordon said. “We have investigated every opportunity to move this industry forward in the state within our present statutory framework. Last week, during a horseback ride with Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, I encouraged him to get agency rules in place as soon as possible, and that our farmers were depending on them.”

Wyoming Department of Agriculture Director Doug Miyamoto added, “The Wyoming Department of Agriculture will be ready to implement a hemp program in Wyoming upon approval of our State Plan by USDA. We are installing testing equipment in our Analytical Services Laboratory right now. We will request emergency rulemaking authority as soon as our plan is approved. This would allow immediate implementation of our program while we concurrently take public comment on our rules.”