Merkley, hemp industry leaders mark hemp legalization

The 2018 Farm Bill defines hemp as an agricultural commodity

PORTLAND, OR – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley today was joined by Barry Cook, a hemp farmer, and Courtney Moran, a hemp industry expert, to mark legalization of hemp in the United States.

The 2018 Farm Bill included landmark legislation, introduced in partnership among senators in Kentucky and Oregon—including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sen. Rand Paul, Sen. Ron Wyden and Merkley—that legalizes industrial hemp. The senators worked across the aisle to ensure the bipartisan Hemp Farming Act of 2018 was included in the final Farm Bill. The bill clearly defines hemp as an agricultural commodity and removes it from the list of controlled substances, as well as allows hemp researchers to apply for competitive federal grants, and makes hemp farmers eligible to apply for crop insurance.

“Finally we are recognizing industrial hemp for the agricultural product it is,”Merkley said. “This is a cash crop that hasn’t been allowed to meet its full economic potential because of outdated restrictions. When I visited the Cook family’s hemp farm mid-harvest, I saw firsthand the enormous potential of this diverse crop under the limited 2014 farm bill. This full legalization provides economic opportunity for farmers across rural Oregon and rural America—good for jobs, good for our communities, and just good common sense.”

“Full federal legalization of hemp is the wind in the sails of our small family-owned farm. With this new authority, Boring Hemp Company will continue to grow, providing jobs and pursuing markets not only in Oregon but across the U.S.,” said Barry Cook, owner of Boring Hemp Company. “The potential of hemp production in the U.S. as an agricultural commodity has barley been scratched. Hemp presents unprecedented opportunities in everything from medicinal and nutritional relief for humans and their pets, to providing textiles and shelter, to reducing toxicity levels in soils. We have been blessed being farmers in a state with a department of agriculture that has been an advocate and leader in setting up hemp licensing and regulation, and with law makers at the state and federal levels that have advocated, supported and sponsored hemp legislation.”

“The sun rose on a new United States yesterday—a United States where hemp is now legal,” said Courtney Moran, an attorney with Earth Law, LLC.“U.S. farmers and agri-business owners have a clear pathway to reap the benefits of growing, producing and manufacturing products made from hemp. Similarly, U.S. consumers now have the opportunity to experience the benefits of hemp as they begin to purchase, consume and use domestically produced and processed hemp in their everyday lives. I give a special thank you the congressmen and women and senators across the United States—in particular to Senator Jeff Merkley, Senator Ron Wyden, Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Rand Paul—who know and see the agricultural and environmental benefits, and the economic opportunity, hemp will provide to these United States.”

The legislation builds on the past successful bipartisan efforts by Merkley and Wyden, who in 2014 helped legalize hemp pilot programs; 568 farmers are participating Oregon’s program, with 71 individuals processing hemp products and 70 individuals producing hemp seeds. In just the past year, the acreage of hemp crops in Oregon has nearly quadrupled, from 3,000 to 11,000 acres. Merkley has used his position on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee to secure key, bipartisan victories for Oregon’s hemp farmers—winning one provision that prevents the Drug Enforcement Agency from going after hemp farmers in states where hemp is legal, and another that allows hemp farmers to transport legal industrial hemp seeds between states. Full legalization will allow for growth in associated industries across Oregon, including hemp textiles, rope, food products, and more.        

The Hemp Farming Act is supported by the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Farmers Union, Vote Hemp, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, and the National Conference of State Legislatures.