This past year has seen some innovative growth ideas come from the West Virginia Department of Agriculture. The commissioner, Walt Helmick, has been at the forefront of pushing for the growth of local food production and for new industries that make use of the mountainous topography of the state.
One area that has not gotten very much attention is a proposal by the department to allow the growth, production and sale of hemp products in West Virginia.
Last year, HB 3011, sponsored by Delegate Mike Manypenny (previous delegate; Taylor Co.), defined hemp as a distinct product and removed barriers to its production. This bill opened up opportunity for West Virginia to take advantage of the industrial hemp research and pilot program provision of the 2013 Farm Bill.
Twenty other states have passed similar legislation and three states, including Kentucky, have passed legislation allowing the creation of research pilot programs on hemp industrial production. These programs allow farmers to partner with the state department of agriculture to participate in pilot programs. Critically, these pilot programs also include marketing and sale of hemp fiber and processed seeds, as permitted under the Farm Bill.
The West Virginia Hemp Industries Association is working with the Department of Agriculture to promulgate rules to allow for the creation of similar pilot programs in West Virginia. SB 221 and HB 2311 authorize theepartment to promulgate its proposed rules for a research and pilot program on industrial hemp.
The bills have passed out of the Agriculture Committees in both the House and the Senate and are waiting to be taken up by the Judiciary Committees. Discussions are underway about whether to limit the provision to exclude third party entrepreneurs (i.e., farmers). Third party businesses would partner with universities in pilot projects relating to hemp production and sale. This has proved to be critical to the success of the research pilot projects in Kentucky.
If you have an opinion about this bill, the best people to contact are the committee chairman (Senator Charles Trump, 304-357-7980 and Delegate John Shott, 304-340-3252), or your local representatives to voice your opinion.
Your can also go to Vote Hemp’s Action Alert and support third-party participation and sales. be sure and call soon because time is running out. You can also visit West Virginia Hemp Industries Association Facebook page for updates.