From AG Weekly:
State candidate: Hemp worth fighting for
By Blair Koch, Ag Weekly correspondent
TWIN FALLS, Idaho – Hemp, the non-narcotic and well behaved cousin of marijuana, is an ingredient found on many products gracing American store shelves, from body-care products to nutritious food and automobile parts.
Although consumers are demanding more products with hemp, fueling a robust import market from Canada, the United States government continues its ban on allowing the crop to be grown here since the government does not distinguish between hemp and its infamous cousin.
During a candidate forum at the Twin Falls County Farm Bureau office on Sept. 11, Democrat Peter Rickards, who is challenging District 23 Rep. Jim Patrick, R-Twin Falls, said Idaho should join with other states working to allow farmers to grow industrial hemp.
“Can we follow them back to the future?” Rickards said about Idahoâ€™s joining North Dakota as a state allowing the crop to be grown.
Hemp hasnâ€™t always been banned from growing in American soil. It was a major cash crop on George Washingtonâ€™s and Thomas Jeffersonâ€™s plantations. Industrial hemp was banned in 1937 along with mari-juana.
North Dakota issued its first permits allowing farmers to grow industrial hemp in 2007; but before any-one can move forward, they need a permit from the
Drug Enforcement Agency.
While industrial hemp hasnâ€™t gained approval on the federal level, demand for hemp products contin-ues grow.
According to a press release from the Hemp Industries Association at HIA: Hemp Industries Association: Industrial Hemp Trade Group, Education & Industry Development, hemp food sales in the United States have averaged 41 percent annual growth over the past three years.
“Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Statistics Canada data show the quantity of hemp seed exports increased 300% from 2006 to 2007. Hemp oil exports kept pace, with an 85% increase in quantity. Hemp fiber exports showed encouraging progress, with a 65% increase in quantity,” the release states.
Besides a growing market for hemp products, the crop could be advantageous to Idaho farmers for many reasons, Rickards said. Itâ€™s a low-water, low-pesticide crop that reinvigorates the soil.
Although Idaho hasnâ€™t made any official moves to legalize growing industrial hemp on the state level, Idaho State Farm Bureau board member Rick Pearson of Buhl said the organization would support an initiative to do so.
“We are in favor of industrial hemp but (it) really is more of a northern Idaho thing; theyâ€™re the people really behind it,” Pearson said. “So we would be in support of legalizing the crop, but I donâ€™t know if it would take off here.”