High hemp hopes: Washington state farmers cheer on provision in Farm Bill

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NORTHWEST NEWS NETWORK – TOM BANSE – A new five-year federal Farm Bill that could get a vote from the House and Senate next week contains a provision to fully legalize hemp production in the U.S.

Pacific Northwest hemp entrepreneurs who have been operating under restrictive state laws are excited by the possibility.

A provision of the 2014 Farm Bill allowed Oregon and Washington state to set up industrial hemp regulatory programs. The first legal, modern-day plantings of the crop in the Northwest happened soon after. But even though you can’t get high off of industrial hemp, the plant still remains on a federal list of controlled substances because it is a variety of cannabis.

Removal from the controlled substances list would be a “huge opportunity for farmers,” said Tonia Farman, CEO of hemp food company Hemp Northwest in Hood River, Oregon.

“What the Farm Bill will open up is the ability for farmers to get crop insurance because that’s a federally funded program,” Farman said.

Farman said legalization could also give producers badly-needed access to the banking system.

“It’s a matter of cash flow and capital that is not available to not just farmers, but all the businesses along the supply chain in the hemp industry,” said Farman in an interview Friday.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pushed to include nationwide hemp legalization in this year’s Farm Bill. The economic potential of the crop for his home state of Kentucky turned McConnell into a dogged advocate for hemp.

Posted by: Tom Banse, Northwest News Network, Nov 30, 2018 at 5:51 pm

Picture: Hemp Northwest, Hemp oil production.