BEND, OR -- Oregon hemp farmers see big things ahead, now that their crop is legal at the federal level. The new Farm Bill, recently signed by President Trump, decriminalizes hemp, opening the door for expanded production. Hemp had been banned for more than 80 years, because of concerns about similarities with marijuana.
U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) fought for the change. "It essentially becomes a commodity, like any other in the agricultural industry," he said Wednesday. Hemp is legal in Canada and Merkley says it has boosted several industries, there. "Hemp cooking oil, hemp clothing, hemp concrete – or hempcrete, building materials; and we’d like to have all of that be part of our economy, here in the state of Oregon." CBD oil is a hemp byproduct used for pain relief and other medicinal applications, without the side effects of marijuana.
Since 2014, Oregon has been allowed to run a hemp pilot program, but it couldn't leave the state because of federal prohibition. It's now grown across 11,000 acres in the state by farmers like Michael Hughes, of Bend. He says the new farm bill has clarified some details, "We needed actual provisions that clearly said that it's distinct from marijuana and is not part of the Controlled substance schedule. So, that's what happened. It looks like there was overwhelming consensus, and President Trump signed it. I think it's a common sense thing to do."
Hughes, also a local attorney, says now that hemp is a regular commodity, farmers will be able to work with the USDA for crop insurance, "I think it's going to be something that Central Oregon farmers will be able to take advantage of, so I think we're going to see more and more farmers from the conventional farming community get involved in hemp." He believes local farmers will benefit by getting involved in the $22 billion industry, "I think we're going to see a lot more acres of industrial hemp in Central Oregon. And, I think we're even going to see more processors that move into towns like Madras and Bend and La Pine, who are going to continue to add to the local economy."