Just half an acre of industrial hemp was (legally) cultivated last year in Nebraska – that should increase exponentially in the not too distant future.
Late last week Governor Pete Ricketts signed a bill into law allowing farmers to grow industrial hemp as an alternative crop.
Championed by Senator Justin Wayne, LB 657 adopts the Nebraska Hemp Act, which will align state law with federal law regarding the cultivation, handling, marketing, and processing of the crop – and products made from it.
Among other things, the Act will promote the expansion of Nebraska’s hemp industry “to the maximum extent permitted by law” and establish testing and compliance procedures.
The Act will also facilitate interstate commerce by not impeding transport of the crop in and out of the state. Problems have emerged where hemp is transported through states without this provision. This has led to arrests of drivers and seizures of shipments – such as the recent high-profile case in Idaho. However, this may soon be a moot point as after USDA publishes regulations implementing the new hemp production provisions of the 2018 Farm Bill, states won’t be able to prohibit the transport of hemp through their jurisdictions.
Hemp was once an important crop in Nebraska, but as in other states the industry died with prohibition. But the plant never really disappeared from the state, continuing to exist in its feral form, known as “ditchweed”.
Back in 2014, LB 1001 was approved, which reclassified hemp as an agricultural product. But it only allowed for cultivation by the Department of Agriculture or a postsecondary institution, so little has been grown – just half an acre last year according to VoteHemp.
Senator Wayne has been keen to see hemp back in Nebraska’s fields – sooner rather than later.
“Hemp production is coming, one way or another, and rather than being out of the business for two to three years, it’s important we get in now,” he said last month.
The bill was passed last week.
Earlier this year, the Governor indicated his support for hemp and Senator Wayne’s bill, which he expected to be successful.
“We’ll then be working on regulations and try to get those out sometime this summer so producers can take a look at that and see what they have to do to start raising that hemp,” said the Governor.
Nebraska’s Department of Agriculture has a hemp page up in preparation – but at this point it basically just says “coming soon“. No doubt many Nebraska farmers will be watching closely for changes to that page.