New rules for growing and testing hemp are coming this fall from the USDA, and that has farmers anxious about establishing consistent standards for the booming crop.
U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said the agency expects to issue regulations in the next two to four weeks.
Hemp was decriminalized in the 2018 Farm Bill thanks to legislation sponsored by Wyden, fellow Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Wyden addressed the state of the hemp industry during a panel discussion Aug. 19 at the Western U.S. Hemp Growers Conference and Expo in Portland. He said Oregon is "at the epicenter of the enormous potential for the hemp in the country."
"We have an enormous sense of pride with the incredible growth in this industry, virtually overnight," Wyden said.
Since 2014, the state has gone from 13 registered hemp growers and 105 acres to 1,883 growers and roughly 62,000 acres, according to the Oregon Department of Agriculture.
The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 that passed Congress with bipartisan support - led by unlikely allies in Wyden, Merkley and McConnell - classified hemp as an agricultural commodity.
"I think it's pretty obvious you are on the right side of history," Wyden told the crowd gathered for the conference. "You don't have thousands of farmers moving into this space for nothing."
Hemp, like marijuana, is a cannabis plant, though it legally contains less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the main ingredient that gets users high.
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