New Hemp Federation heads to DC as farmers face lack of markets |

New Hemp Federation heads to DC as farmers face lack of markets

The newly formed Hemp Federation of America is planning its first fly-in to Washington next week, just as Reuters reported that the farmers are having a hard time finding a market for this year’s crop.

The group of growers, processors and allied businesses will arrive in Washington on Thursday, Nov. 14, a spokesman said.

Will Wheeler, an Oklahoma rancher and farmer who is serving as HFA’s board chairman, said in a news release that an industry with a domestic market of an estimated $800 million to $2 billion annually needs a trade association in Washington.

“There’s no question that there is a viable crop here that has potentially hundreds if not thousands of uses. But we have to get this right, and we have to get it right coming out of the gate. That’s why we formed the Hemp Federation of America, so farmers can be involved in shaping the legislation and the regulation of industrial hemp with our presence in Washington,” Wheeler said.

“Hemp is a crop with enormous potential, providing value for the farmer and a sustainable, low-impact source of food, fuel, fiber, and more for American consumers. But the transition from prohibition is complicated given there is currently no common regulatory framework to protect growers and ensure a level and competitive playing field. We are literally just writing the rule book now, and it is imperative that the first-hand knowledge, cultivation experience, and practical voice of the American farmer be at the table as we do so,” said Derek Azevedo, executive vice president of Bowles Farming Co., a California-based grower of cotton, tomatoes, and specialty crops who also serves as HFA’s vice chairman.

“As a crop, industrial hemp is as old as the American Colonies. But it’s a new entrant to today’s legislative and regulatory landscape, and with that comes the need to have conversations with the folks inside the Beltway,” said Scott Graves, HFA’s executive director. “There is a tremendous amount of work ahead of us with Congress and the administration to build a common-sense regulatory framework if we are going to help grow the market for American farmers and businesses.”

Graves said priorities for HFA include an education effort to help lawmakers and others discern industrial hemp from cannabis, clarify federal permittance of legal banking for industrial hemp interests, open interstate transportation and commerce for industrial hemp, as well as issues related to work visas and water use in farming.

Asked for a reaction to the Agriculture Department’s hemp regulatory framework announced recently, Graves said, “USDA’s rules are extensive, and there is quite a bit of detail. We’re still reviewing that, and working with our members to interpret the implications. We are encouraged at USDA’s willingness to engage with growers and industrial hemp to write these rules, and we are going to be talking with the administration at length once we’ve completed our analysis, including during our Hemp Federation of America fly-in. … This is all positive, and forward movement, but we have miles to go.”

Reuters said in a recent story that about 65% of U.S. hemp farmers lack a buyer for their crop this season, leaving them few alternatives, according to a July survey by Whitney Economics.