Farmers Call for End to Hemp Ban

Thursday, 23 Jan 2014 02:14 PM

By Drew MacKenzie

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The American Farm Bureau Federation, a powerful and influential farmers' lobbying group, is demanding the repeal of the classification of industrial hemp as a controlled substance.

The ban, which has been heavily criticized by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, prevents American farmers growing hemp while the United States has been importing products from overseas that derive from hemp.

At the federation's annual meeting last week in Texas, the group voted to approve a resolution from the Indiana Farm Bureau supporting the de-classification of industrial hemp as a controlled substance under the Drug Enforcement Administration guide lines, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader's website Kentucky.com.

Hemp is a commonly used term for high growing varieties of the cannabis plant and its products, which include hemp seeds, hemp oil, wax, resin, rope, cloth, pulp, paper, and fuel.

Kyle Cline, policy adviser with the Indiana Farm Bureau, said that hemp can provide some farmers with the chance "to diversify their operations and share in a new market opportunity."

He continued, "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.

"Industrial hemp is one such opportunity that may work for some farmers in certain regions. Furthermore, industrial hemp will allow the U.S. farmer to share in income that is currently going overseas. Right now, it is legal to import hemp but illegal to produce it. Therefore, there is no opportunity currently to share in the profit."

Paul has been calling for an end to the hemp ban for 18 months, saying that the plant could help to diversify his state's agriculture economy.

And Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said this week that the state should follow Indiana's lead on hemp and "get on the ball" before it's too late.

"There's a lot of competition on this," said Comer. "When we started this in 2012 with Sen. Paul, there weren't very many states interested in pursuing a hemp industry. Now there are 20 states."

Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp, said, "Farmers see hemp imported from China, Canada, and realize that they're missing out on the growing U.S. market for hemp.

"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."

According to Kentucky.com, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told the Lexington Herald-Leader last week that he had asked the U.S. Attorney General's office to review the classification.

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