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With Federal Farm Bill Compromise, Will Indiana Legalize Producing Hemp?

Indiana farmer Mark Boyer spoke to attendees at the Indiana Farm Bureau State Convention about his experience this past harvest season growing hemp. (Samantha Horton/IPB News)

Industrial hemp legislation is expected to appear again in the upcoming Indiana legislative session – and might now be helped along by federal law.

Previous attempts to legalize the plant have failed in the Senate because some lawmakers thought it was tantamount to condoning marijuana, which is still illegal nationally. Indiana farmer Mark Boyer was able to grow hemp on his farm through a research permit this past season. He compares hemp and marijuana to animals of the same species.

“The comparison is made that a chihuahua and a Great Dane are both dogs, but beyond the fact that they’re both dogs the similarities end there," says Boyer. “It’s much the same with hemp and marijuana.”

The Farm Bill compromise announced Monday night includes removing hemp from a list of banned substances and makes it a regular agricultural crop. This would allow farmers to have crop insurance on hemp they produce.

Indiana Farm Bureau State Government Relations Director Justin Schneider predicts the language in the federal farm bill might be the change that finally gets a bill to the governor’s desk in 2019.

“I think that’s the thing that really is needed to put people at ease at the state level,” says Schneider.

Indiana Hemp Industries Association founder Jamie Petty says several businesses around the state use hemp to produce their products. Currently, they have import it. However, she says those companies would prefer to purchase from Hoosier farmers.

“These people want their product, they want their hemp grown here,” she says. “They don’t want to import from Canada or any other country.”

Boyer presented at a session at the Indiana Farm Bureau’s State Convention earlier this month discussing his experience growing the plant and exploring hemp’s possible impact on Indiana agriculture. He says this could expand farmers crop portfolios, but dismisses the argument farmers would stop growing other crops if they grew hemp.

“This is not going to be a commodity crop replacement,” says Boyer. “This is simply will be something that will add diversity and another crop to our rotation here within our own state.”

A summer study committee examined the issue, in hopes of crafting legislation for the session, which begins next month.

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