U.S.: Senators Introduce Industrial Hemp Water Rights Act to Protect Farmers

US Capitol

By Michael Bachara
Hemp News

Last week, Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Steve Daines (R-MT), Jon Tester (D-MT) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) introduced bipartisan legislation which would allow farmers to use water they own through private water rights to grow hemp, if the crop is grown legally.

In 2014, in a pilot program created by the 2014 Farm Bill, permission was granted to state Departments of Agriculture to license farmers to grow industrial hemp. However, the Bureau of Reclamation prohibits the use of federally-controlled water for growing hemp, as the plant is listed in the outdated Controlled Substances Act. The conflicting policies are creating confusion for farmers who grow industrial hemp with water from federal reservoirs.

The Industrial Hemp Water Rights Act would clarify federal policy, ensuring farmers of water rights, even if it passes through federal facilities, to cultivate industrial hemp on their properties.

“As I’ve said before, the federal ban on industrial hemp is not anti-drug, it’s anti-farmer,” Senator Wyden said. “This bill ensures farmers and researchers in states like Oregon that have legalized industrial hemp can move forward with their hemp pilot projects. I’m continuing to work with my colleagues to lift the ban on hemp to allow American farmers to grow hemp on United States soil and realize the vast opportunities industrial hemp farming has to offer."

“Industrial hemp research and farming have opened up doors for farmers in Oregon and across the country,” Senator Merkley said. “Outdated policies should not stand in the way of our farmers growing small businesses and agriculture across the U.S.”

“Private landowners should be able to use their water to grow industrial hemp, regardless of whether the water passed through federal water projects,” Senator Daines said. “Washington, D.C. bureaucrats shouldn’t be able to restrict access to water for purposes that are allowed under state law.”

“As a farmer, I know how important it is that we give our nation’s agricultural producers the flexibility they need to thrive,” Senator Tester said. “This bill makes responsible changes so farmers can access water, grow their operations, and conduct meaningful research that expands economic opportunities for families and businesses across America.”

“This bipartisan legislation provided needed clarity for farmers in Colorado who want to grow industrial hemp legally,” Senator Bennet said. “This is a necessary measure to fix conflicting federal policies that are slowing the implementation of the Farm Bill pilot program and stifling new business opportunities in rural Colorado. At the very least, Colorado’s farmers deserve a clear path to boost growth in our agriculture economy.”

“Colorado’s industrial hemp farmers should not be restricted by over-burdensome federal regulations that don’t respect Colorado’s water laws,” Senator Gardner said. “This bipartisan legislation recognizes our farmers’ right to access Colorado water and makes sure the federal government cannot interfere with our their operations. Coloradans know how best to manage our state’s water and it is time for the federal government to get out of the way and allow Colorado’s farming operations to succeed.”

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