WORLAND — An $867 billion farm bill passed by the House of Representatives by a vote of 369-47 on Wednesday (the bill passed the Senate on Tuesday by a vote of 87-13) effectively legalized industrial hemp production in the United States, pending President Donald Trump’s signature, although a lack of budget for research in Wyoming may keep the crop from growing in the Cowboy State.
“Right now, Wyoming is in a hold pattern,” said Wyoming Department of Agriculture Public Information Officer Derek Grant. “We are waiting to see what will happen when President Trump signs the bill, but we still have no funding from the state to buy equipment.”
House Bill 230, introduced in the Wyoming State Legislature in January 2017 and passed into law late last year, enabled Wyoming to join 20 other states in the development of hemp as a viable crop. Although the law became effective on July 1, 2018, the process may take years to implement.
Currently, the Wyoming Department of Agriculture (WDA) is registering with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to import seeds for cultivation and testing, and does not expect to start issuing licenses to grow the crop until 2019. Furthermore, the state did not appropriate funding in the original bill to staff or purchase equipment for training and testing, which could push legal hemp farming back even further in the state.
Grant also noted that when, and if, completed, the licensing requirements and rules for farming hemp will be released for public comment before finalization. Should the process go smoothly, hemp farming could become a reality before 2020.
As defined by the bill, “Industrial hemp means all parts and varieties of the plant cannabis sativa, containing no more than three-tenths of one percent of (0.3%) of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).”
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In accordance with Wyoming Statute 35-7-2103, industrial hemp is considered an agricultural crop in the state, and once state requirements are upheld, it will be legal for a person to grow, harvest, possess, process and sell industrial hemp.
Under the bill, state licensing would be required to grow industrial hemp, after a criminal background check, fingerprint file and licensing fees are approved by the state. Growers of the product (limited to an agriculture pilot program) would report to the state all buyers and use only state-provided seeds acquired from the state Department of Agriculture.
The farm bill that passed Wednesday specifically states that all state departments of agriculture will be in charge of oversight and regulation.
On the Senate side, both Wyoming Senators John Barrasso and Mike Enzi voted for the farm bill, but against the final conference report. In the House of Representatives, Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney voted for the bill.
After the bill’s passage, Cheney issued a statement, saying that “the Farm Bill is critical for hard-working farmers and ranchers in Wyoming. This bill provides the tools and resources necessary to manage market volatility and risks beyond farmers’ and ranchers’ control including adverse weather conditions and natural disasters. The legislation makes important investments in infrastructure by encouraging rural broadband development, expanding good neighbor authority, and improving forest management practices to better prevent devastating wildfires. In addition, the Farm Bill improves the integrity and oversight of SNAP by modifying waivers and exemptions and providing President Trump the ability to strengthen work requirements. I am also pleased that the important reauthorizations and reforms in this bill are budget neutral.
“Today’s passage of the five-year farm bill reauthorization is essential to the continuity of programs relied on by farmers and ranchers in Wyoming as they work every day to feed the nation. I’m looking forward to this bill heading to President Trump’s desk for a signature.”