Agricultural Hemp Campaign

Read Rural Vermont’s position on the legalization of marijuana here.

The University of Vermont Extension Northwest Crops and Soils Program

Hemp seedlings emerge in Vermont. Photo courtesy of the University of Vermont Extension Northwest Crops and Soils Program.

Hemp seedlings emerge in Vermont. Photo courtesy of the University of Vermont Extension Northwest Crops and Soils Program.

National Update:

On June 1st, 2016 the Hemp Industries Association (HIA), a non-profit trade association consisting of hundreds of hemp businesses, in conjunction with the Kentucky Hemp Industry Council, filed a petition with the Drug Enforcement Administration to remove industrial hemp plants from the schedules established under the Controlled Substance Act. The petition cites language from the 2014 Farm Bill, which defined hemp as distinct from ‘marijuana’ by establishing the standard that hemp contains no more than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol or THC on a dry weight basis. Read the press release here. Read the full petition here.

Vermont Updates:

Hemp seed that has since been planted in VT soils! Photo courtesy of the University of Vermont Extension Northwest Crops and Soils Program.

Hemp seed that has since been planted in VT soils! Photo courtesy of the University of Vermont Extension Northwest Crops and Soils Program.

In a recent VPR story, it was reported that around 60 acres of industrial hemp are being planted in Vermont is 2016.

Under the leadership of agronomist Heather Darby, the University of Vermont Extension Northwest Crops and Soils Program has begun an industrial hemp research project.

Because traditional grant sources are not available to fund this work, a crowdfunding campaign was launched to raise money for this year’s research. In part thanks to the staff and members of Rural Vermont, the campaign was a success – Darby and her team exceeded the $15,000 goal which will be dedicated to industrial hemp research.

Field trials are planted; the team will be evaluating hemp variety performance, monitoring disease and insect pests, and determining soil health and fertility management  to better understand hemp cultivation in Vermont. Darby plans to develop guidelines for sustainable growing practices as research progresses.

To learn more about the programs’s industrial hemp research, visit www.uvm.edu/extension/cropsoil/hemp.

Read a recent article about UVM hemp research efforts.

Sterling College is also getting involved in hemp for textiles, animal feed, and potentially CBD oil, and is working with a growers co-op called The Family Green.

Past Campaign Updates:

June 10, 2015: In following with the 2014 Farm Bill, two institutions of higher education in Vermont have applied for licenses from the DEA to import hemp seed. Sterling College and the University of Vermont are at different stages in the slow process but hopefully will be all set by the 2016 growing season to once again plant hemp in Vermont soils.

Several Vermont farmers have registered with the State and are growing hemp this year with seeds they saved from their harvests last year. There is a lot of energy and excitement surrounding hemp and hopefully we will see things pick up speed after Sterling and UVM get their licenses approved.

The crowd at the Hemp History Week Storytelling Event

Storytelling at a 2015 Hemp History Week Event

June 3, 2015: Thank you to everyone who helped to make our Hemp Storytelling at the Upper Valley Food Co-op on June 3 a success! The night was filled with delicious hemp snacks, free hemp goodies, thought-provoking conversations, and overwhelming support for easier access to hemp farming. Two of our presenters, Robin Alberti and Ken Manfredi, have started a Vermont chapter of Hemp Industries Association (HIA). We also had Eric Lineback from VoteHemp. Read a full recap of the event here.

National Updates: On June 3, 2015 the U.S. House of Representatives passed three amendments to their Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 2578), that would prevent the DEA and the Department of Justice from interfering with state hemp laws, cannabidiol laws, and Farm Bill pilot programs. It still has to go through the Senate but it is a sign of a definite shift in thinking that all three amendments passed handily.

7/17/14: Check out the op-ed that ran in the LA Times recently about the current status of hemp cultivation in the U.S. and why we need to push for a change in Federal legislation!

Rural Vermont Hemp Flag

Vermont Hemp champions rally around the US Flag made from Hemp that was flown at the VT State House in September, 2013. Photo by Matt Hogan.

Vermont passed sweeping legislation in 2013 that allows Vermonters to grow hemp. Because federal law still regards hemp as a drug, there remain some risks for those who choose to take advantage of Vermont’s law.

However, the Federal Farm Bill, passed in March 2014, allows the cultivation of hemp for research purposes. When passed, hemp advocates cheered because the federal government had given the green light for hemp cultivation in at least a limited capacity. Unfortunately, the provision in the Farm Bill provided no legal remedy for the continued federal prohibition on importation of viable hemp seeds, so the University of Vermont and other institutions have been unable to proceed with plans to develop research crops. Senator Leahy’s office and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture have been working with Rural Vermont and other advocates to break down these archaic federal roadblocks.

May 2014 – National News Update: Kentucky has been forging ahead with its own state law and has imported 250 pounds of hemp seed. When the seeds arrived, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) initially prohibited Kentucky’s access to their hemp seed. The State of Kentucky filed a lawsuit against the DEA, and subsequently an agreement was reached to release the seeds; however the agreement requires Kentucky to obtain a DEA and a FDA importation permit. Kentucky officials just started planting hemp in late May. You can read a news story regarding this issue.

Adam Vorsteveld, a dairy farmer from Bridport, visits a Colorado hemp farm

Adam Vorsteveld, a dairy farmer from Bridport, visits a Colorado hemp farm

In 2013, Rural Vermont Applauded Passage of Progressive Hemp Legislation Supporting Vermont Farmers’ Right to Cultivate Hemp.

On Monday, May 14, 2013 the Vermont Legislature passed S.157, An Act Relating To Modifying The Requirements For Hemp Production In The State Of Vermont, a bill which is based on economic opportunity and common sense. On June 10, 2013 Governor Shumlin signed this historic legislation into law.

S.157 simply revamped Vermont’s hemp statutes:

  • by removing permitting regulation,
  • by creating a $25 registration fee,
  • and giving the Vermont Agency of Agriculture authority to promulgate testing and inspection protocols.

On the registration form farmers will need to state their name, list field coordinates or markers identifying the field where they intend to grow hemp, and provide a statement ensuring that the seed is of a low THC variety (maximum .3% THC concentration).

In recognition of the prohibition under the Federal Controlled Substances Act, all registration forms will state that growing hemp remains illegal under federal law and that a farmer could risk federal criminal penalties, forfeiture of property, and the loss of federal farm aid programs. Download the registration form here.

Rural Vermont recognizes hemp cultivation as an opportunity to provide Vermont farmers with a highly versatile crop that gives them financial opportunity while increasing sustainability and filling the demand for local hemp products. If you are interested in the possibility of growing hemp in Vermont or the development of federal legislation laws, please contact robb@ruralvermont.org for more information.

Download Rural Vermont’s brochure about hemp and the current law.

 

About Hemp

The Columbia History of the World states that the oldest relic of human industry is a bit of hemp fabric dating back to approximately 8,000 BCE. During World War II, U.S. farmers grew about one million acres of hemp as part of a federally subsidized program called “Hemp for Victory.” George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both grew hemp. Ben Franklin owned a mill that made hemp paper. Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper. According to the Department of Energy, hemp as a biomass fuel producer requires the least specialized growing and processing procedures of all hemp products.
Henry Ford experimented with hemp to build car bodies. Over 30 industrialized countries allow the growing of hemp.

Why Hemp?

As Vermont transitions to a path of sustainability, Rural Vermont visualizes hemp as an ideal crop for Vermont, as its production will contribute to the future viability of Vermont agriculture.

  • Value added hemp products possibly could create an additional $2000-$3000 in revenue for Vermont’s family farmers.
  • The infrastructure needed to process hemp will result in increased business opportunities and new jobs in our communities.
  • As a food crop, hemp seeds and oil produced from the seeds have high nutritional value, including healthy fats and protein ideal for humans and as an animal feed.
  • As a fiber crop, hemp can be used in the manufacturing of products such as clothing, building supplies, and animal bedding.
  • As a fuel crop, hemp seeds can be processed into bio-diesel, and stalks can be pelletized or flaked for burning or processed for cellulosic ethanol.
  • The production of hemp can play a useful agronomic role in farm land management as part of a crop rotation system, as a cash crop for farms transitioning to organic, and as a riparian buffer.

 

Campaign History

Over the last decade, Rural Vermont has been advocating to allow Vermont farmers to cultivate hemp. Rural Vermont has been highly successful in gaining broad based support for hemp. In four successive Vermont Legislative Biennium’s, the Vermont Legislature has overwhelmingly passed legislation towards that goal.  However, in order for Vermont’s laws to become fully effective, we await changes in federal laws and policy.

Rural Vermont has partnered with the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, and nationally with Vote Hemp to strategically plan out events and actions to make legal hemp cultivation a reality. We are pleased that Senator Bernie Sanders signed on as co-sponsor to Senator Ron Wyden’s (D-OR) Industrial Hemp Farming Act in the United States Senate. This bill is a companion bill to the hemp bill in the U.S. House of Representatives, introduced by Representative Frank Masse(R-TN). Vermont’s Congressman Peter Welch is a co-sponsor of the house version. We are pleased with the strong leadership displayed by Senator Sanders and Congressman Welch in cosponsoring legislation that will create economic opportunities for Vermont family farmers. Furthermore, as the Chairman of the Senate Agricultural Committee, Senator Leahy has also taken a keen interest in expressing concerns of federal policy.

If you are interested in the possibility of growing hemp in Vermont or the development of federal legislation laws, please contact Robb Kidd, robb@ruralvermont.org for more information.

Campaign Highlights:

In 2012, Rural Vermont encouraged grassroots pressure to request legislative leaders to pass legislation authorizing the Vermont Agency of Agriculture to begin the permitting process that would allow Vermont farmers to cultivate hemp. The Secretary is not authorized to issue a permit until federal laws or regulations are changed.

In 2011, Rural Vermont strategically pressured Congressman Welch to co-sponsor HR 1831, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 211 in the U.S. House of Representatives, a bill that would allow farmers grow hemp to the extent that is permitted by state laws.

In 2009, Rural Vermont helped to pass a resolution (view it here (pdf) that: 

  • Urged Congress to recognize industrial hemp as a valuable agricultural commodity and direct the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to allow the states to regulate industrial hemp farming without federal applications, licenses or fees.
  • Directed Vermont’s Secretary of State to deliver copies of the resolution to the Administrator of the US DEA, US Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, and the Vermont Congressional delegation.

In 2008, Rural Vermont helped to pass H. 267. Rural Vermont’s advocacy efforts created that regulatory structure as a trade-off to the law enforcement communities’ concerns. Our educational and advocacy efforts have successfully convinced legislative leaders to remove those requirements with passage of S.157.

  • Growers would need to get a license from the Vermont Secretary of Agriculture.
  • Licensed growers will have to register the locations of all fields where they will grow hemp with the Vermont Secretary of Agriculture.
  • Licensed growers will have to destroy any parts of the hemp plant that are not entering the stream of commerce.
  • Licensed growers will obtain all of their seed from the Vermont Secretary of Agriculture.

Historical Materials

S-157, An Act Relating To Modifying The Requirements For Hemp Production In The State Of Vermont. As passed by the Vermont Legislature in May, 2013.

Read HR 1831, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2011, sponsored by Congressman Ron Paul (TX-R) and cosponsored by 33 Representatives including Vermont Congressman Peter Welch.
Read Hemp as an Agricultural Commodity
, (pdf) Congressional Research Service report January 19, 2012
View the Hemp for VT bill (H.267) as enacted into law (.doc)
View Act 212 of 2008
– AN ACT RELATING TO INDUSTRIAL HEMP
Download a general handout describing agricultural hemp, from a 2007 “Vote Hemp” event (pdf)
Download a 2007 list of cultivars approved for legal growing around the world (pdf)
Download thank you notes made by Mark Candaras, RV Volunteer, used in 2008 session (pdf)
Download the 2008 factsheet we used to publicize H. 267 (pdf)
Listen to testimony from the 2008 legislative session

Links

Hemp Facts from Way Out Wax, Candle Makers
Hempfully Green– Hemp Building Products Company, Poultney, VT
Find out what’s happening in other states on Vote Hemp’s website