Source: Natural Resource Report

Congressman Kurt Schrader

After Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Representatives Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrader, Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici raised concerns about funding for industrial hemp pilot projects last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has taken a key step by clarifying which industrial hemp research programs are eligible for existing federal funding.

The guidance from the USDA provides a response to a bicameral letter the legislators sent last year for funding for industrial hemp research pilot projects. Specifically, it clarifies that industrial hemp would be eligible for National Institute of Food Agriculture (NIFA) funding, though research must take place in one of twenty-eight states with certified pilot industrial hemp programs. Eligible applicants are institutes of higher education and state departments of agriculture.

While the USDA clarification that these programs are eligible for federal research dollars is a welcomed announcement, the guidance comes as part of a broader joint statement of principles issued in August by the USDA, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the implementation of states’ hemp pilot programs established under the 2014 Farm Bill. That statement raised further questions about other industrial hemp policies, which are inconsistent and conflict with federal law specifically regarding transportation, the definition of industrial hemp and the sale of hemp.

“Oregon farmers, and farmers across the country, have an opportunity to compete in the growing global hemp market. However, we need to clear the bureaucratic hurdles, and eliminate the unnecessary confusion and red tape that currently exists for our farmers and research institutions,” Schrader said. “I’m pleased that the USDA has taken the necessary steps to provide clarification in their guidance for hemp research pilot programs, like that at Oregon State University. We are now one step closer to seizing on this massive agricultural opportunity for our state and the country.”

“Ensuring funding is available to our states and universities will help Oregon put more hemp plants in the ground and propel industrial hemp research off the ground,” Wyden said. “I will continue working with my colleagues to get answers to the questions that remain so pilot projects like Oregon’s get the resources they need to ultimately seize on this burgeoning industry that provides a trifecta of benefits for farmers, the environment and the American economy.”

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