Wyden, Merkley join effort to boost hemp production
Oregon's U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley joined Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Thursday, April 12, to introduce legislation allowing states to regulate hemp crops.
The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 also legalizes and clearly defines hemp as an agricultural commodity and removes it from the list of controlled substances.
The proposed legislation gives states the opportunity to become the primary regulators of hemp, allow hemp researchers to apply for U.S. Department of Agriculture grants and makes hemp farmers eligible to apply for crop insurance.
"It is far past time for Congress to pass this common sense, bipartisan legislation to end the outrageous anti-hemp, anti-farmer and anti-jobs stigma that's been codified into law and is holding back growth in American agriculture jobs and our economy at large," Wyden said. "Hemp products are made in this country, sold in this country and consumed in this country. Sen. McConnell, our colleagues and I are going to keep pushing to make sure that if Americans can buy hemp products at the local supermarket, American farmers can grow hemp in this country."
Merkley said the legislation would block "frustrating restrictions on hemp farming in the United States."
"If we're selling hemp products in the United States, we should be growing hemp in the United States," Merkley said. "It's good for jobs, good for our communities and it's just common sense."
In 2014, McConnell, Wyden and Merkley helped legalize hemp pilot programs. In 2016, they sought clarification for farmers after three federal agencies issued new guidance conflicting with laws governing the growing and selling of industrial hemp.
U.S. Rep. James Comer (R-KY) will introduce a companion version in the House.
Per hemp farming legislation set forth in the Farm Bill of 2014, 25,541 acres of industrial hemp were lawfully cultivated across 19 states in 2017.
To date, thirty-four states have defined industrial hemp as distinct and removed barriers to its production. These states are able to take immediate advantage of the industrial hemp research and pilot program provision, Section 7606 of the Farm Bill: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.