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New Farm Bill Will Expand Hemp Production

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The new farm bill, signed Thursday, will give a tremendous boost to the hemp industry in Washington, and across the nation.

The bill legalizes the production of hemp in the U.S., after years of being illegal. The plant was lumped in with its drug containing cousin, marijuana.

Removing the federal ban on industrial hemp cultivation opens up interstate hemp commerce and bank financing.

And it’s expected that many potential growers will apply for licenses to produce the crop in Washington. Up until now, the state operated a pilot hemp program. 

Hemp can be used to produce fabric, biofuels, building materials, and even food.

Bonnie Jo Peterson is the head of the Industrial Hemp Association of Washington. She says the main interest at this stage is hemp that has high content of the compound known as CBD, a medicinal product that can be used to treat a variety of ailments, including seizures.

“It’s going to be the biggest part of the market in Washington to start with, then once the CBD market becomes saturated, farmers will move over to the more industrial and food crops,” Peterson said.

Peterson says she is getting a lot of interest from people who want to know how they can become involved in the industry as a grower. But she cautions that it may not be a field that is right for everyone, because it’s likely the producer industry will eventually become oversaturated.

She says experienced farmers who can adapt will be the most successful.

“The same kind of equipment used for harvesting hay is not going be able to be used for harvesting hemp. So it’s going to be a farmer who not only has the land, and know how, but is able to purchase new equipment or go into a co-op buying model with other farmers,” she said.

Peterson says the Washington legislature will have to fine tune state laws at the January session before the 2019 growing season for hemp can begin.


Steve was part of the Spokane Public Radio family for many years before he came on air in 1999. His wife, Laurie, produced Radio Ethiopia in the late 1980s through the '90s, and Steve used to “lurk in the shadowy world” of Weekend SPR. Steve has done various on air shifts at the station, including nearly 15 years as the local Morning Edition host. Currently, he is the voice of local weather and news during All Things Considerd, writing, editing, producing and/or delivering newscasts and features for both KPBX and KSFC. Aside from SPR, Steve ,who lives in the country, enjoys gardening, chickens, playing and listening to music, astronomy, photography, sports cars and camping.