Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Industrial Hemp Research Pilot gets funding to resume activities

Kathy Davis
WSDA Communications

Bags of industrial hemp seed obtained by WSDA for the pilot research pilot. 
Washington state’s Industrial Hemp Research Pilot (IHRP) received funding in the supplemental operating budget signed by Gov. Jay Inslee yesterday. The $100,000 appropriation will allow the program to stay afloat for the next growing season. 

With this one-time funding, WSDA will resume activities such as processing applications to participate in the program. It will also allow the agency to recruit for an IHRP coordinator to oversee the program. That position has been vacant since June 2017.  

The IHRP was created in state law in 2016 with a one-time appropriation to get the new program up and running. WSDA was given authority to establish and collect fees to finance it into the future. 

During the first growing season last year, WSDA issued seven licenses. The revenue generated by those fees alone was not enough to sustain the program beyond the first year. The agency continued to accept license applications, but has not collected fees or processed any applications.  

Restarting operations

“With this legislative funding, we can continue to serve the industrial hemp pioneers in our state for at least the next year,” said Jason Ferrante, assistant director of WSDA’s Commodity Inspection Division. 

Ferrante noted that WSDA will assess participation in and financial support of the program through this spring and summer. Ultimately, Washington’s industrial hemp needs to be self-supporting, which may involve adjusting the fee structure.  

Ferrante said WSDA will respond to customer feedback by simplifying the application forms. The agency will also provide more resources for potential applicants, such as the Liquor and Cannabis Board map of marijuana growing locations since industrial hemp cannot be grown within four miles of marijuana. 

Industrial hemp in WA

Of the 2017 IHRP licensees, the four licensed growers planted 180 acres of industrial hemp. One license was issued for seed distribution and two were some combination of processing, marketing, and growing.

Industrial hemp has many potential uses. It is primarily grown as a source of fiber for textiles, rope, paper and building materials. Hemp seed is used for food and oil. The plants can be a source of livestock feed and bedding. 

As a cannabis plant, industrial hemp is considered a controlled substance under federal law. However, the 2014 farm bill authorized state agriculture departments to oversee growing the crop for research purposes. With legislative approval in 2016, WSDA launched the program, adopted rules and began processing licenses.