Idaho Farmers Look to Hemp as New Crop!

Idaho Farmers Look to Hemp as New Crop!
Posted by FoM on February 07, 1999 at 10:54:34 PT

Lynne Hutton was worried by the curly-haired man in the suit who walked into her Coeur d'Alene store and intently studied hemp products.It wasn't the first time her hemp purses and hats, air fresheners and oils had offended someone's sense of propriety.
Since she'd opened nearly two years earlier, Lynne had explained to several customers the difference between industrial hemp and marijuana. Hemp isn't a drug.But Mike Schlepp hadn't wandered into Lynne's store to harass her.``I was collecting information,'' he says. ``Hemp is a crop there's demand for.''Mike's a farmer just like his dad. For 18 years, he and his family have forced a living from their land along the Coeur d'Alene River near Rose Lake. This year, they grew oats and alfalfa.Mike's a 40-something, church-going man working hard to heal his acreage from contamination left by a century of mining. He's the president of the Kootenai-Shoshone chapter of the Idaho Farm Bureau.And he's interested in hemp.``Not necessarily to grow here,'' he says, gesturing toward the fields out his window. ``But it would be another alternative crop for Idaho growers to be able to grow.''He's not alone in his interest. The Idaho Farm Bureau voted in 1996 to ``encourage the legalization of cultivation and production of industrial grade hemp.''The farm bureau represents 11,300 farmers.``We aren't advocating civil disobedience,'' the bureau's Dennis Tanikuni says with a chuckle. ``We just want to make a statement. Our folks are pretty independent, forward thinkers. We're looked at as conservative, but we want what works.''Idaho farms need something.``Agriculture in Idaho is under the gun,'' says Pat Takasugi, the state's director of agriculture. ``We're looking for alternative crops, but we're not ready to cross the line into the illegal.''The federal government considers hemp a controlled substance, like its hallucinogenic cousin marijuana, and bans its cultivation. Several groups, including the Resource Conservation Alliance, are lobbying the Drug Enforcement Administration to legalize hemp.The difference between the two plants is simple. Hemp contains less than 1 percent of the active ingredient, THC, which produces the high. Marijuana plants contain 10 to 20 percent THC. Unfortunately, the two varieties look alike.Until the 1950s, hemp was a common crop in the United States. American colonists were required to grow it to supply sails and ropes for ships.The government encouraged hemp growth during World War II to supply the military with ropes, tents and parachute cords.But by the 1950s, taxes pushed the cost of hemp production out of sight and the Federal Bureau of Narcotics lumped industrial hemp with marijuana, banning the cultivation of both.About 30 other countries still grow hemp. Canada dropped its ban on the crop last year. Americans are allowed to manufacture hemp products, but have to import the raw material. That bothers Mike.``We're importing from Canada and elsewhere when American farmers could supply the same,'' he says.Ads and articles in mainstream agricultural journals sparked his interest in hemp several years ago. Farm equipment manufacturers showed off their harvesters slicing through the tough plant.At about the same time, the American Farm Bureau Federation expressed interest in researching hemp as a crop. It wasn't long before the organization was pegged as supporting the legalization of marijuana.``That made the members uncomfortable,'' says David Christensen, the AFBF's director of organization. ``The next year we took any reference to hemp out of our policy book.''Misconceptions worry Mike, too. Farming is his first concern. Hemp is a good crop to grow in rotation with other crops, he says. It breaks weed and disease cycles. It's a possible alternative to grass on the Rathdrum prairie.And there's a growing market for it. Legal hemp products number in the thousands.``It probably would work,'' says farmer and state Rep. Wayne Meyer, R-Rathdrum. ``But it won't happen. I've mentioned the legalization of hemp down here (Boise) and gotten funny looks.''Which doesn't surprise Mike. Raised eyebrows are the reason he collects his information quietly. If the DEA ever legalizes the growth of industrial hemp, he'll be ready to show what the plant can do for Idaho.``Mike's one of the innovators, a doer,'' says Jerry Miller of the state farm bureau. ``It's not a good time to be a farmer. Farmers are diversifying out of necessity. Mike's always looking for new ways to do things.''
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Comment #2 posted by heffer on February 07, 1999 at 23:10:39 PT:
What the Americans should do.
It is what the American people do not know is what is killing industrial hemp, and what is getting nothen done. What I mean is a large percent of the population does not know what industrial hemp is or think that is marijuana. So what should be done? Educate the people and get it on the TV where everyone will see it. That is the only way we are going to be able to make this a main topic for the politictians to talk about in up coming elections. If you have a comment for me please feel free to email me at:heffer
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Comment #1 posted by Phishfood on February 07, 1999 at 14:26:20 PT
Looking from the governments eyes
Our country is run by people that only care about who is running things. They don't really care what the people think or want. All that matters to them, is that the people of our so called "FREE COUNTRY", feel that they are fighting for the things we want. Its all lies! Our is government is more worried shattering the life of a horny president, for their own personal benefits! Some people might not agree with what I have said here, but frankly, I really don't care. I am doing what all of you people need to do. I'm expressing my FREEDOM of speech! Do the same "VOTE REFORM"! If you have anything you would like to say to me, feel free to send me a message from my web site!
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