By Steve Elliott
Two Pennsylvania lawmakers have pre-filed legislation that they say would help farmers become part of the multi-million dollar hemp industry.
"The 2014 federal Farm Bill authorizes pilot programs for industrial hemp, and SB 50 provides oversight for growing, harvesting and marketing a traditional commonwealth crop while providing new opportunities for Pennsylvania farmers," said state Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks County), who is co-sponsoring the bill with state Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon County).
Schwank said industrial hemp has been used for thousands of years, and was commonly grown in Pennsylvania until the last century.
About 50,000 potential applications exist for hemp, including textiles, building materials, paper, plastics, foods, medicines, biomass, and environmental products.
"The use of industrial hemp provides a multitude of benefits," Folmer said. "The best farmland preservation is allowing farmers to farm their land profitably.
"Hemp is also a crop that helps the environment," Folmer said. "Consumers will benefit from the many uses of hemp."
More than a dozen other states have already passed laws allowing either hemp farming or research programs. The hemp industry was worth an estimated $500 million in 2012, according to the Hemp Industries Association.
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Twenty States Have Legalized Industrial Hemp By Wide Margins, With Major Health Institutions Giving the Nod to Hemp's Protein-Rich Nutrition
With interest in food, farming, wellness, and all-things-cannabis are on the rise, industrial hemp is attracting a fan base broader than "hipsters" and vegetarians that may first come to mind. Major health institutions are now on board, giving the nod to the nutritional quality of hemp's protein-rich seeds, and assuring people eating them will not cause failed drug tests.
The productivity of Canadian hemp producers has gone up in recent years, bringing more affordable hempseed foods to grocery stores and vitamin websites. Politically, hemp is a rare bipartisan issue, as evidenced by the 20 states that have legalized the crop by wide margins, defining it as a distinct variety of cannabis sativa, having .03 percent THC or less (no drug/narcotic value).
This is welcome reform for Plant Kingdom Bakery owner Jeremy Koosed, who claims to have discussed the subject of hemp for nutrition with hundreds of thousands of people. For the past five years, the Lyndhurst-based "snackery" has been onhand with hempseed foods and information at community festivals and farmers markets. Coffee shop baristas have also helped clarify the subject for customers, as Phoenix Coffee locations in Cleveland and Nervous Dog in Akron have made Plant Kingdom snacks available since 2009.
For the first time in two generations, the Industrial Hemp crop has been legally harvested in Kentucky. The hemp plots were grown in compliance with Kentucky state law and in accordance with Sec. 7606 of the 2014 US Farm Bill (Agricultural Act of 2014) that authorized hemp cultivation for research purposes in states that permit Hemp farming.
The agricultural excitement spurred some of Ohio's long-time hemp advocates to travel south to meet the farmers and gain first-hand experience with the plant that cannabis prohibition has kept out of American fields until very recently.
In votes often favoring Hemp by wide margins, 20 states have legalized the crop, defining it as Cannabis Sativa L., having .03 percent THC or less (no drug/narcotic value). The reforms are welcome in Kentucky, where tobacco growers are hurting for alternative crops.
Even with the non-drug status being declared federally, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) seized viable hemp seed en route to Kentucky from Italy, as outdated policy under the Controlled Substances Act doesn't recognize the scientifically-demonstrated chemical distinctions between "marihuana," a Schedule I narcotic, and hemp, a viable agricultural cash crop commodity. Kentucky sued the DEA to release the seeds, and prevailed in federal court, allowing the research plots to proceed.
By Steve Elliott
Agriculture officials in Oregon have for months now been working on rules for industrial hemp production, with a goal of having them finished in time for a Spring 2015 planting. But one man from Portland doesn't want to wait.
Rick Rutherford, 47, has some land in Dufur, and he doesn't want to wait, reports Noelle Crombie at The Oregonian. Rutherford, who said he sees big potential for industrial hemp, last week sent an application to the Oregon Department of Agriculture, requesting permission to grow hemp on his land in Wasco County.
"Time is of the essence as planting seeds needs to be underway within the next couple of weeks to conduct a viable outdoor research pilot program in Oregon," wrote Courtney Moran, a Portland lawyer, in a letter accompanying Rutherford's application.
"I think it will be kind of fun to do," Rutherford said. "I have been itching to do this for a long time."
State officials on Thursday said they aren't ready to start issuing hemp-growing licenses. The rule writing process has been torturously slow, as officials labor of licensing fees and processing rules.
The Farm Bill approved by Congress earlier this year allows states where industrial hemp is legal -- including Oregon -- to permit hemp production by universities and state agriculture departments. Sixteen states allow hemp cultivation.
By Steve Elliott
Hemp has been legally planted in Kentucky for the first time in decades, signaling the tentative return of a crop which once was a lucrative industry for the Bluegrass State.
University of Kentucky researchers on Tuesday planted a small crop of 13 varieties of hemp seeds, finally released last week by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) after pointless bureaucratic wrangling.
Although industrial hemp was an indispensable crop for Kentucky through World War II, it was the first time it had been legally planted in the state since the 1970s, reports Janet Patton at the Herald Leader.
University of Kentucky agronomists RIch Mundell and David Williams will supervise the hemp study. The plants are expected to sprout in 7 to 10 days and will be harvested in October. Each variety will be evaluated for its seed and fiber production.
"It's exciting to be working on something different, and we're very hopeful it will be successful," said Williams. "Generally speaking, compared to some crops, it's not difficult to grow.
"But there are some things that are unknown today," Williams continued. "In particular, differences in the varieties of hemp we have access to today."
While much of the economic interest in hemp decades ago was based on its fiber, now there's more focus on the seeds, which can be press for a nutritious oil which contains essential fatty acids (EFAs) Omega 3 and 6.
By Steve Elliott
The Farm Bill passed in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday morning by a vote of 251 to 166, including the hemp provision. "This is a big first step towards allowing American farmers to once again grow industrial hemp," according to VoteHemp.org.
The hemp provision was originally introduced as an amendment to the Farm Bill by Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colorado), Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon), all three of whom represent states which have legalized industrial hemp. The provision allows universities and state agriculture departments to grow hemp for academic or agricultural research purposes, but applies only to states where industrial hemp farming has already been legalized under state law.
"By including language easing restrictions on industrial hemp in states where it is legal, Congress sends an important message that we are ready to examine hemp in a more appropriate way," Rep. Blumenauer said on Monday.
"Vote Hemp was pleased with the bipartisan support for the amendment and worked with key Republican and Democratic offices in both the House and Senate to ensure the amendment was included in the conference report, which passed the House on Thursday. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) reportedly worked to keep and strengthen the hemp provision in the Farm Bill.
By Steve Elliott
Hemp cultivation for research purposes by colleges, universities and state agriculture departments is allowed in the new Farm Bill, according to a report released Monday night by the U.S. Senate and House conference committee on the bill.
The hemp amendment in the Farm Bill was written by U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon), U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky), and U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colorado), reports Noelle Crombie at The Oregonian. All three Congressmen represent states where industrial hemp production is already legal under state law.
The inclusion of the industrial hemp amendment in the Farm Bill is a "bright spot in an otherwise disappointing bill," Rep. Blumenauer said late on Monday. The bill, which cuts about $8 billion from the food stamp program over the next decade, is expected to be voted on by the U.S. House and Senate on Wednesday.
"Oregonians have made it clear that they believe industrial hemp should be treated as an agricultural commodity, not a drug," Blumenauer said in an email to The Oregonian. "By including language easing restrictions on industrial hemp in states where it is legal, Congress sends an important message that we are ready to examine hemp in a more appropriate way."
The amendment allows colleges, universities and state agriculture programs to cultivate hemp for research and pilot projects; it does not, however, protect individual farmers who grow the crop.