US (ID): Eight growers are ready to produce hemp

Amid years of historic drought and a push for more sustainable resources to lower carbon emissions, industrial hemp legalization may have come along at just the right time for Idaho agriculture.

Hemp is believed to be one of the earliest cultivated crops in modern human history, but it only became legal to grow in Idaho last year. Farmers are beginning to receive licenses from the state to produce and handle the crop during this growing season for commodities such as insulation, paper, oil, and food products.

Idaho was the 50th state in the country to legalize industrial hemp with a bill that passed the Idaho Legislature in April 2021. Braden Jensen, deputy government affairs director for the Idaho Farm Bureau, said his organization has been pushing for the policy change for the better part of the past 20 years, but the 2018 federal farm bill that removed hemp from the controlled substances list made the issue a priority in the 2021 legislative session. The legalization presents an opportunity for farmers to diversify their operations, he said. “Idaho took a very methodical and diligent approach, really investigating and understanding what it would mean to open this industry to growers in the state and really go in with our eyes wide open,” Jensen said.

The bill included an emergency clause to make the law effective as soon as it passed both chambers of the Legislature, which set in motion a crunched timeline for the Idaho State Department of Agriculture. Chanel Tewalt, deputy director of the Department of Agriculture, said there are two options when a state legalizes hemp: To either have the U.S. Department of Agriculture act as the regulatory body for the industry, or to have the state act as the regulator. Idaho chose the latter, and allowed hemp to be produced, processed, transported and researched throughout the state under certain guidelines. But those guidelines had to be developed by the department.


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