COURTESY PHOTO: CAPITAL PRESS - Hemp growing in Oregon's Willamette Valley could be affected by a new bill in the Legislature.SALEM — Oregon hemp growers would be free to propagate the crop from cuttings and propagate it from cuttings under a bill that’s headed for a vote in the House.

Under current law, hemp can only be seeded directly outdoors in fields at least 2.5 acres in size, which was intended to facilitate industrial production but proved too inflexible for growers.

At the time Oregon lawmakers originally legalized hemp production in 2009, they enacted these restrictions with the expectation the crop would be used for oilseed and fiber instead of human consumption.

Since then, the Oregon Department of Agriculture found that many hemp producers were more interested in growing the crop for cannabidiol, a compound used for medicinal purposes, than for such traditional products.

To this end, they wanted to use greenhouses, clone desirable plants and produce the crop on a smaller scale.

Under House Bill 4060, which was passed by a key legislative committee, the minimum 2.5 acre field requirement would be scrapped and hemp farmers would be given the same flexibility in production and propagation methods as growers of other crops.

The Oregon Farm Bureau is supporting H.B. 4060 because it wants hemp treating like other crops.

The bill was approved 8-1 by the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources on Feb. 11 after a last-minute amendment that clarified hemp would be subject to the same Oregon Department of Agriculture water and pesticide regulations as other crops.

The amended version of the bill, which will soon be subject to a vote on the House floor, also clarifies that growers can cultivate all varieties of hemp and that the crop won’t be considered a food adulterant, among other provisions.

Growers can also send crop samples to accredited laboratories for required testing, which is expected to be cheaper than using ODA staff and facilities.

During the Feb. 11 hearing, the committee also unanimously approved House Bill 4007, which creates a new way to form rangeland protection association, which fight wildfires.

Landowners must currently win approval from the Oregon Board of Forestry to create such associations, but H.B. 4007 would also allow them to be approved by county governments.

Twenty rangeland protection associations staffed by volunteers protect 4.6 million acres in Eastern Oregon. New associations organized by counties would still have to submit annual budgets to the Oregon Board of Forestry and enter into cooperative agreements with the Oregon Department of Forestry.

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