Maine Legislature Exerts its Right to Hemp Farm Contrary to Federal Law and Governor Veto

The 2014 Farm Bill, signed by President Obama February 2014, lifted the ban on hemp farming for “research purposes” only, holding in place the ban on hemp farming for commercial purposes.

After a few amendments, Maine’s House and Senate passed the bill on to the governor, Republican Paul LePage, who vetoed it, citing the “legal risks for Maine’s farmers” because federal law has yet to exclude “industrial hemp from its definition of ‘marihuana’.”

However, the Maine legislature officially overrode the governor’s veto.  The Maine House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to override the governor with a vote of 135 in favor to 6 against on Friday, June 12, 2015.  The Maine Senate followed suit on Monday, June 15, 2015 with a vote of 27 in favor to 6 against.

Maine’s major industries include shipbuilding, fishing, tourism, and agriculture. The U.S. market for hemp is at least $600 million per year with over 25,000 uses for hemp including food, fabrics, cosmetics, plastics, and biofuel. U.S. is the number one importer of hemphemp_2 in the world with Canada and China act as the leading exporters of hemp in the world.  This law will greatly benefit Maine’s economy, not to mention that hemp is well suited for organic production as hemp can grow densely and control weeds.

The final version of LD#4 can be found here, and its terms will be effective state law 90 days from June 16, 2015.

I am cynically waiting to see whether the US Drug Enforcement Agency will use its resources and tax-funded budgets to prosecute Maine farmers for participation in the commercial hemp market.

Wisconsin Town to Appeal Decision Allowing a Factory Dairy Farm

Saratoga, WI is appealing a trial court decision that will allow the construction and operation of a 5,300 cow dairy farm.  Notice of appeal was filed Monday, June 15 in Wood County, Wisconsin.

The 7,000 acre farm is slated to offer many new jobs to Central Wisconsin. The Wysocki Family of Companies also promises to use the 7,000 acres to allow for grazing, as well as growth for potatoes and other vegetables.  Wysocki plans to use manure produced by the 5,300 cattle as nutrients for the potato and vegetable soil crop.

As with any large scale factory farm, the risk of run-off pollution is ever-present with large scale land application of manure. Soil density, precipitation, temperature, and amount of pollutants (such as nitrogen and phosphorous) require a delicate balance, and it is notoriously difficult to environmentally enforce or control such methods.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is still reviewing the environmental impact of the agricultural pollutant permit applications.

Oregon Senate Bill 207

In interesting remedy to the dichotomy created by the infamous US Supreme Court Monsanto decision [or as some characterize the predatory and evil practices of Monsanto], Oregon introduced a bill earlier this year that seeks to help the often targeted smaller farmers.

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Senate Bill 207 seeks to establish “control areas” between growers of genetically modified ((and thus patent-protected) plants and the growing of “other plants” in order to avoid conflicts between growers that naturally arise from cross-pollination (wherein plants accidentally incorporate legally protected biotech genes, potentially incurring large monetary liability on innocent farmers merely based on wind patterns and proximity.

Oregon’s legislative session ends July 30, 2015 and this bill is currently sitting in a committee, so if you are an Oregon resident, find your legislator and contribute to the discussion or stay informed!

California Passes Bill Strict on Fraud at Farmers’ Markets

California passed AB 1871, which does two major things, among other provisions.  First, it restricts and criminalizes fraud at farmers’ markets in the state.  Second, it increases the daily stall fee from $0.50 to $2.

The bill first criminalizes any statement (oral, printed, or otherwise) that is misleading regarding the products area of production, producer identity and method of production.  Violation of such law is a misdemeanor, meaning 6 months (maximum) or a fine of $500-$5,000.

The rise in vendor fee is expected to raise $1.4 million annually and will be deposited into the Department of Food and Agriculture Fund.  This fund will be used to promote transparency.  Vendor fees will be used to evaluate county enforcement procedures, conduct hearings for violating these laws, maintaining a list of farmers’ market locations, maintaining lists of certified producers, and maintaining lists of producers whose certification was revoked.

This law also regulates the use and meaning of the term “California-grown,” directs the administrative agency to pass rules that regulate and promote wholesomeness of agricultural products, and regulates what constitutes a “certified” farmers’ market.

For further information on what this bill means for California, see this article.

USDA Announces $19 Million in Grants to New Farmers

USDA Announces $19 Million in Grants to New Farmers

Earlier this month, the USDA announced $19 million in grants for young farmers. The grants, managed by the National Institutes of Food and Agriculture, are aimed at those trying to break into farming and those who have been at it for fewer than 10 years.

The grants will help train producers through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), the USDA said in a statement in mid-April. Those competitive grants help beginning ranchers, farmers and foresters through the extension of training and technical assistance.