Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Representatives Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrader, Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici asked the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) and Oregon State University (OSU) to implement an industrial hemp pilot project in time for next year’s growing season, in a letter sent last week.
Currently, American farmers are banned from growing hemp in the United States under federal law. But last year’s Farm Bill allowed states and universities to grow and research industrial hemp to determine whether commercial production of hemp would benefit U.S. farmers and businesses.
To be able to qualify, farmers must register with state agricultural departments and partner with universities to conduct the research. The lawmakers urged ODA and OSU to move forward with efforts to implement Oregon’s industrial hemp pilot program in time for the 2016 growing season and requested a timeline for doing so.
“The potential for industrial hemp production represents a great opportunity for Oregon agriculture,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter.“Many Oregon farmers have expressed interest in participating in this pilot program and some have already obtained permits to grow hemp from the Oregon Department of Agriculture.”
Americans consume more hemp-based products than any other nation, with industrial hemp contributing to about a $620 million industry in the United States. As a result of the current ban, 100 percent of the hemp consumed domestically is imported from other countries, forcing Oregon companies like Bob’s Red Mill, Fiddlebumps and Hemp Shield to pay extra costs for importing hemp.
“Without ODA’s active participation in the pilot program and the cooperation of OSU, Oregon farmers could lose out on the chance to make Oregon a leader in the hemp industry,” they also wrote.