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Feds approves hemp program, clearing way for Wyoming producers
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Feds approves hemp program, clearing way for Wyoming producers

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Hemp Growing Rules

Workers at MERJ farms unload hemp plants Oct. 10 during the first harvest at the Sullivan County farm in Bristol, Tenn. U.S. agriculture officials finalized a rule in late October that will allow farmers to legally grow hemp.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved interim regulations for industrial hemp production this week, clearing the way for a state program set up by Wyoming lawmakers earlier this year.

The long-awaited clearing away of that bureaucratic hurdle allows the state Department of Agriculture to finalize rules it has been drafting throughout the spring and summer, hopefully allowing Wyoming farmers to begin producing the hardy cash crop in time for the 2020 growing season.

“We’re excited to move forward in this process to provide more crop options for producers in Wyoming,” Doug Miyamoto, director of the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, said in a statement. “With the release of this interim final rule, we have the opportunity to amend the plan we submitted in April to better align our program with the federal regulatory framework to increase our chances of receiving delegated authority to regulate hemp in Wyoming.”

Though Wyoming submitted its industrial hemp production plan back in April, the state’s growers have been kept in limbo by the federal government, which had still not conceived of a formal process to regulate hemp on a federal level.

In the meantime, the state’s Department of Agriculture has already been working to set itself up for success. At a meeting of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Agriculture, State and Public Lands & Water Resources in Dubois last week, representatives from the department provided lawmakers with a status update on a state-level testing program for the crop, which was set up with guidance from states like Kentucky and Colorado.

The hemp plant – which was still technically illegal until the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill this past winter – shares similar characteristics to cannabis plants that contain psychoactive properties. However, it lacks a sufficient amount of the psychoactive compound THC that gets people “high.”

While Wyoming has chosen to abstain from growing until the federal rules were finalized, states like West Virginia and New York have already begun producing industrial hemp in anticipation of legalization, while others like Kentucky and Colorado have been producing the tough, fibrous material in research environments for several years.

Wyoming sees a significant amount of promise in the new cash crop, which could help to diversify the revenue streams of many farmers located on the high plains.

In April, a summit in Casper attracted hundreds of growers looking to learn more about how to maximize the crop’s potential in the state. By 2022, one trade publication anticipated more than 3,300 acres of the plant could be growing in Wyoming.

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Politics Reporter

Nick Reynolds covers state politics and policy. A native of Central New York, he has spent his career covering governments big and small, and several Congressional campaigns. He graduated from the State University of New York at Brockport in 2015.

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