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Majority of Leading Farming Organizations Now Support Hemp Farming in the U.S.

January 22, 2014 (Washington D.C.) – The American Farm Bureau Federation has passed a resolution calling on the federal government to repeal classification of industrial hemp as a controlled substance.   Delegates approved the resolution at the Farm Bureau’s 95th annual meeting in San Antonio, Texas on January 14.

The Farm Bureau had previously passed a resolution supporting research into the uses of industrial hemp, back in 1995.

The Farm Bureau’s new position in favor of decriminalizing industrial hemp cultivation adds growing weight to the hemp legalization movement.

In Congress, the current House version of the Farm Bill  contains an amendment to legalize university research on industrial hemp in states that have removed barriers to the crop’s production.  The Farm Bureau’s annual policy resolutions significantly influence both state and federal legislation on agriculture, food and interstate trade, and represent the majority voice of farmers around the country.

The new policy has support even in America’s heartland.  Kyle Cline, policy advisor with the Indiana Farm Bureau, had this to say.  ““We support the declassification of industrial hemp as a controlled substance because of the opportunity that it provides some farmers to diversify their operations and share in a new market opportunity.  At a time when small farms are innovating and diversifying to remain competitive, we should provide every opportunity to increase farm incomes and allow the next generation the ability to continue living off the land as their families have for generations.”

In addition, he said, legalizing industrial hemp will allow U.S. farmers to share in income that is presently going overseas, since right now it is legal for Americans to import hemp but illegal to produce it. “

Grown commercially in Canada since 1998, hemp has become one of the most profitable crops for farmers north of the U.S. border.  While American farmers often net less than $100 per acre for soy and corn, Canadian farmers net an average of $250 per acre for hemp.

 The Farm Bureau’s action is also being applauded by Vote Hemp, a nonprofit advocacy group pushing for farmers to once again be allowed to grow hemp, which was once a staple crop here during Colonial Times. 

Eric Steenstra, President of Vote Hemp, called hemp a “versatile, low input crop.”  Farmers see hemp imported from China, Canada, and realize that they’re missing out on the growing U.S. market for hemp, he said, adding, “That farmers are coming forward with formal support for policy change in favor of hemp legalization is a huge step forward and Congress should follow their lead and pass legislation to once again allow hemp farming under federal law.”

Other major farming organizations, including the National Grange, National Farmers Union, and National Association of State Departments of Agriculture have all taken positions recently in favor of legalizing industrial hemp growing.

To date, 32 states have introduced pro-hemp legislation and ten states have defined industrial hemp as distinct and removed barriers to its production, including California. However, despite changes to state laws allowing hemp, farmers in these states risk raids by federal agents, prison time and land forfeiture if they plant the crop, because federal policy does not distinguish oilseed and fiber varieties of  industrial hemp, or cannabis, from drug varieties.  Industrial hemp varieties are low in THC,  the active ingredient in marijuana, so hemp does not provide a “high” to users.

Currently, Vote Hemp and the Hemp Industries Association (HIA) are organizing Hemp History Week, a national campaign sponsoring local educational and retailer events in all 50 states from June 2 through June 8 this year. The industry-wide project involves hundreds of hemp manufacturers, retailers and volunteers.

Hemp was grown by some of our nation’s founding fathers, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.  The Declaration of Independence was reportedly drafted on hemp paper, known for its sturdiness and durability.  Hemp produces four times more paper for acre than most other trees, advocates say. Hemp is used in many food products and is high in omega fatty acids. Other uses range from rope fiber to body care products.

Rigging for the U.S. Constitution ship was made from hemp and Abraham Lincoln used hemp seed oil to fuel lamps. Henry Ford once built an experimental car body made of hemp, which is purported to be ten times stronger than steel.  In World War II, the U.S. government actually promoted a “hemp for Victory” program, encouraging farmers to grow the crop.

But the 1937 Marihuana Act and the 1970 Controlled Substances Act effectively outlawed hemp growing. The Drug Enforcement Agency continues to treat hemp the same as marijuana amid rising concerns over drug use.

Today, with many states legalizing medical marijuana and two, Colorado and Washington, legalizing even recreational use of marijuana, a growing number of lawmakers and farming advocates contend that it’s high time to change the law and allow farmers to reap the rewards from producing industrial hemp.

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