Hemp Farming in Washington State: Updated
Concerning the situation for hemp farming in Washington State throughout 2019-2020 - getting the kinks worked out. Follow a trail of updates and see how it's unfolding.
Update 9/15/2019 - We Did It!
Washington State Governor Jay Inslee signed the Engrossed Second Substitute Senate Bill 5276 (E2SSB 5276 - effective upon signing) on April 26th, 2019. This means our state's hemp program is transitioning from one based on research, to a commercial industry.
The final step is for the WSDA to develop a new Hemp Plan and submit it to the USDA via expedited rule-making. This is ideally going to happen before January 1st, 2020, but the entire nation still awaits official USDA rules and regulations regarding the crop.
To read the new policy statement through the WSDA and get all the juicy specifics, simply visit this page which they keep well updated: https://agr.wa.gov/departments/agricultural-products/hemp
Week by week Washington State inches closer to the moment our governor signs a newly-passed bill paving the way for an official hemp industry - opening the floodgates!
House Bill HB 1401 considered dead upon arrival in the senate.
The mirror Senate Bill SB 5267 moved onto Appropriations Committee in the House; soon to be scheduled. Pushing for $300,000 in funding for development and implementation.
The eventual hemp program will be according to the language in HB 1401 regardless since both share ultimate goals for farmers. So it doesn't matter what number bill is signed, if you get to know HB 1401 you'll know what the program is going to be like (more on this below).
Breaking News: Financial Services for WA Hemp Industry Available!
Northwest Farmer Credit Services is offering banking, hail crop insurance and 401k services. Credit will be offered in 2020. Other options are opening up as well, for example from Edward Jones offering no-fee Checking & Debit accounts and 401k plans (not currently open to CBD processors or retailers, or those involved with 502 recreational cannabis). Raw biomass and flower suppliers for CBD can open accounts though. The doors are opening and within a year many competitive offers and financial security measures will be open to Washington hemp farmers and suppliers. This is all good news.
A few updates released via the National Hemp Association working directly with the USDA team overseeing the transition into a post-2018 Farm Bill reality.
Regulations they're mandated to develop won't affect the 2019 planting season. Ideally everything will be in place by Summer 2019 to oversee and implement a successful 2020 hemp planting season.
So far 5 States and one Indian Council have submitted permitting/grow plans.
The USDA is quickly (they said hemp is their #1 priority) working towards finalizing a template to allow all states to submit their plans in a uniform and consistent way.
The hemp regulations to be established by the USDA will be minimum standards – "...allowing States only the option of being more restrictive, not less. States who have not enacted hemp legislation or program must take some legislative actions i.e. – remove hemp from their State Controlled Substances Act."
Note: An Industrial Hemp Research Pilot (IHRP) License is still required to grow hemp in Washington in 2019 for grain, seed protein powder and oil, as well as stalk fiber and hurd. CBD CANNOT be listed anywhere on the license. Farmers will be able to harvest for CBD under the new rules and regulations due to the grandfather clause in the bill. New Program Licenses will be available in 2020.
The process of repealing some previous rules restricting how farmers could source seed, along with the 4-mile buffer zone are in the works (because you don't want any male hemp pollinating female cannabis). The mandatory comment period goes until April 22nd, 2019. As long as no one opposes, licensed Washington State hemp growers will be getting their hemp seed April 23, 2019. Those inside buffer zones will be able to apply.
Here’s the rule in WAC 16-305-060 to be repealed to allow farmers to obtain seed without having to import from foreign suppliers and provide an orderly transition that accounts for the 2018 Farm Bill opening up interstate commerce in regards to hemp:
“Section 6: Industrial hemp may not be grown within four miles of any field or facility being used to grow marijuana as licensed under chapter 314-55 WAC. For calculation purposes, for outdoor fields licensed under chapter 314-55 WAC, four miles means from any field border of any registered land area, and for indoor facilities licensed under chapter 314-55 WAC, four miles means from any exterior or interior border wall.”
In the document sent to the Department of Agriculture, the primary reasons stated to support the repeal of this rule are as follows:
“The 4-mile buffer in WAC 16-305-060(6) did not provide a benefit to either hemp or marijuana crops and it significantly reduced the area available for production. The current rule does not distinguish between indoor growing operations and outdoor growing operations, potential fields for industrial hemp would not qualify if there is an indoor marijuana grower within 4 miles of their field. Repealing the buffer will allow more Washingtonians to participate in the Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program.”
Basically folks, the 2018 Farm Bill made it so U.S. farmers shouldn't need to import seed from Canada, China, Europe, etc. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, and plenty of international trade is going to happen, but Washington hemp farmers should be able to freely trade with hemp farmers in Colorado, Oregon, Montana, and throughout The Union after the Farm Bill opened up interstate commerce.
Hemp is moving through committees with a swiftness and everyone feels the tension building. With over 21,000 acres in 2018, can you believe how Montana exploded in hemp acreage? WA farmers will be able to source seed openly from around the nation as well as foreign suppliers with appropriate records submitted to the WSDA.
Seed coming from any state or country will not have to be certified. I'm not exactly sure what this means, perhaps organically certified?
Looks like licensed WA farmers will get their seed in time for 2019 planting season!
Also, within the proposed bill the whole hemp plant will be able to be used as food. This includes its naturally-occurring phytocannabinoid CBD - cannabidiol. Although as of right now it’s not going to be mentioned in the bill specifically, it will become legal to harvest and process in the state of Washington. Reportedly this language is necessary to keep the bill alive due to changes in FDA policy regarding CBD. See SB-5276 and HB 1401 which soon will match and become law.
The Washington State Hemp House Bill HB 1401 was filed on January 18th, 2019. What a tremendous day for our state and all the world.
No guarantees on the timeframe of new Agricultural Hemp Commodity Program yet.
The IHRP program licenses are available and needed to grow/process in the 2019 growing season.
Brief Outline: Purpose of Bill Hb 1401
The WSDA will license, regulate and develop a new hemp licensing program, to replace the Industrial Hemp Research Pilot (IHRP) program, which expires January 1, 2020 in accordance with the federal “Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018” or 2018 Farm Bill. While of this is subject to change before becoming law sometime later in 2019, here’s where it stands.
Note: Hemp with a THC level below 0.3% THC will be legal to produce in Washington State.
The definition of hemp will be modified to be inline with the “Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018”.
A [WA] State Hemp Plan will be developed to be submitted to the USDA Secretary.
Hemp-derived CBD will be considered as food and treated as food.
Testing of Hemp for THC levels without heat application will be developed by the Department exclusively for Hemp outside the LCB.
A Post-Harvest Hemp THC testing protocol will be developed.
A State Hemp Plan will be developed to be submitted to the USDA Secretary.
Hemp derived CBD will be considered as food and treated as food.
A Hemp Producer license fees will be determined by the Department to sustain the program with a hemp fund set up and monitored by the State Treasury.
A legislative task force will be established on the availability of crop insurance.
The 4 mile buffer zone between Hemp and licensed 502 Marijuana grows will be eliminated. The buffer zone must be studied and modified for possible cross pollination issues and changes.
A certified seed protocol will be developed by the Department (included is a list of certified pedigreed seeds).
The Department is directed to develop and make accessible a internet based application to assist farmers with planting times for hemp crops.
An emergency clause will be added.
A grandfather clause will be established for IHRP licensees.
Initial Funding for program development will be procured at $300,000 for the biennium.
Introduction: The Basics
Throughout most of 2019, Washington State will be operating under the same laws passed in accordance with the 2014 Farm Bill - have to farm hemp within the bounds of a ‘Pilot Program’ for research purposes (this program no longer has a dedicated coordinator in WA as of last time I checked; it’s essentially done right now). Meaning, there’s been absolutely no change in state law regardless of what’s taken place on the federal level via the 2018 Farm Bill.
Between January and April 2019 the new congress will meet and decide who’s going to oversee the Washington State hemp industry within the WSDA.
Once this is decided, it’s likely to take another roughly 4 months for this specific department within the WSDA to iron out the details of this oversight plan with other relevant departments to detail how the initial industry will be run - not just for farmers (seed, fiber, CBD, etc.), but processors and sellers.
This then will be adopted by the state, harmonizing with current Farm Bill language concerning hemp farming as a commodity legal for interstate commerce.
I was told by a gentlemen within the WSDA the resulting bill in WA is likely to be rather friendly to upcoming hemp-CBD farmers and those looking to put hemp CBD into food products. This is such a good idea it brings tears to my eyes...
Bottom Line: Washington State isn’t likely to see it’s first rocking hemp growing season after passage of the 2018 Farm Bill until hopefully the 2020 growing season. There are no plans for any new crops to be introduced into the 2019 growing roster at the WSDA.
Get Involved Now
Make calls, send emails, contact our Governor, Agriculture Department Reps, local legislators and take initiative. Get prepared because the 2020-2022 growing seasons will be here soon. Research what other farmers in states like CO, OR, KY, MT, and PA did/learned during their first few growing seasons. We need Washingtonians to step up once again just as they did for Medical Cannabis, and hemp in 2017, but this time the stakes are far higher. Hemp can offer the state of Washington and our farmers one hundred times what psychoactive cannabis can. Since 2014 I myself have tried 3 different hemp businesses, and failed each time, but all of them due to a lack of domestic industry. It’s time!
Note: One great resource I've found is the "Lancaster Farming Podcast" out of PA. It’s free, and there are already a few episodes from hemp farmers out east who tried their first crop in 2018, from both very small and medium-sized plot perspectives; farmer to small business. You can also learn about these three vertically-integrated hemp farms in an article I created about How to Choose the Right Hemp Extract.
Help Iron Out the Details!
If there’s anything you can do to help transition Washington into becoming a powerhouse hemp producer of the U.S. on the legislative, or more legal level, please contact the WSDA - especially if you're Interested in American Hemp Farming. I’ll do my best to update this article as I can throughout the year regardless. Washington could really use the help of farmers from other states already ahead of the game, for example Kentucky, whose Agriculture Commissioner submitted their state’s oversight plan to the USDA within minutes of the 2018 Farm Bill being signed. Or Montana where they were so speedy and successful with planting.
Are You a Hemp Farming Master?
In 2018, there was a single recorded crop registered under the WA State Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program. In 2019, sadly, there will likely be very little as well. Washington has a small army of gifted psychoactive cannabis growers, but very, very few experienced hemp farmers. To kick things up a notch, we could really use the help of any farmers in America or from our brothers and sisters around the world who can come here and help our farmers prepare on both sides of the mountains!
Industrial Hemp Association of WA
The more people showing interest in this association, getting involved, joining the show, donating and coordinating events, the more lively it'll become. I just finished sending them an email asking to volunteer :) so I’m not blowing hot air. Also, please, if you’re already a passionate hempster like me start educating people. Now’s the time... hemp farming is federally legal! How can the great people of Washington who came out in front of medical cannabis, choose to lag so far behind other states when it comes to hemp...when it has so much more to offer us and our nation?
Note: The Industrial Hemp Association of WA is Free to Join!!!
Help with Farming & Processing Equipment
If Washington State is to become a real hemp player throughout the 2020s and beyond, we need farmers, business people, investors, and industrious folks to help establish a processing infrastructure. Right now the big focus is on ‘hemp-CBD’ or hemp plant extractions, and that’s great, after years of successful medical cannabis industry experience and growth there’s no lack of extractors or labs for testing.
Our greatest needs have to do with hemp seed and especially fiber processing. How many specially designed hemp decorticators do we have in the state right now? I haven’t seen or heard of a single one. We need hemp farming equipment not just for the larger commercial farmers, but smaller plots for farmers who decide to ease into it in 2020 with test plots. Or hobby and private farmers because hemp’s one hell-of-uh good plant to have around for any family - as long as there’s a way to get the goods from the plants (unless you’re just growing for seed to feed animals and compost; maybe roast and make chocolate-covered hemp seed for healthy family snacks, etc.).
Washington Hemp Entrepreneurs
Without a doubt, Washington has no lack of entrepreneurial spirit; the entire earth knows as much and then some - our music, art, and agriculture are just icing on the cake. And what we’ve all managed to do with cannabis since 2012 has helped lead the nation in this respect. We’ve helped fuel the Endocannabinoid Science revolution! Entrepreneurs, we need you to look at the core issues facing our state’s hemp industry and create solutions. These will be solutions at the forefront of a trillion $$$ industry before 2030 - digital banking solutions, farming solutions/machines, plant-testing solutions, networking solutions, and so much more. Now’s the time. Let me know if I can help you. This is a once in an ‘Every few generations’ opportunity which our grandchildren are hoping we won’t mess up.
Now, if you're interested, I've got a little something to share.
A Short Story: The Hempen Crew of Fort Darby
Both my grandfathers were born about 1900 - my mom birthed me at close to 50, so I’m slightly unique in this respect. My paternal grandfather was born in Nebraska and my mother’s dad in Massachusetts. Somehow they both ended up in Washington between 1920-1930. And somehow, my maternal grandfather married the absolutely foxy, classy woman (love you grandma!) in the photo below then settled somewhere between Seattle and Everett.
I've been told in those days there wasn’t much but forest between the two…
Side Note: A legend in my family tells how long, long before the Seattle Science Center existed, around this time in the late 1920s or early 30s (Space Needle wasn't built until 1962), my paternal grandfather (not the guy in the photo) had the chance to buy the land it sits on for a few thousands dollars. Whoa!! He passed it up though because his wife, my grandmother I never met, said it was a lousy worthless hunk of land. To think, if he'd bought that land and held onto it until passing away in 1999 at just shy of 100 years old...my family's fate would've been...umm...shall we say, dramatically altered.
That’s a smartphone snapshot of a paper photocopy of an old picture captured in the early to mid-1920s in WA state. Not sure, could be the 30’s, we haven’t tracked down their marriage certificate yet.
Okay wait, just gotta say, he’s so alpha, look at’em! I wish I would’ve had a chance to know Grandpa John. He died an old feller before I learned to walk. In my recollection somewhere, deep in the recesses of my formative brain there exists a sense of him though, a distant, faint encounter. He was a strong man. I believe I do have one mental image of his face, but that was so long ago it’s a faded memory now. He was much balder, turning away from me, looking down and to the left, a grey-haired and hunched over old man in my early-childhood mind’s eye...
Mom would tell me of the times when he'd leave before dawn everyday and be back around supper, having made maybe a dollar or two doing odd jobs, enough money to buy some food for her and her sister. Real Depression Era tales that helped me better understand her psyche as I got older.
My maternal grandmother’s story’s a bit more mysterious (the woman in the photo); you have to realize, I was born so late in my direct family’s experience that I’ve been kept from a lot. Another memory from childhood is of my mother talking about her, or perhaps it was my great-grandmother coming down from Canada via boat and getting shipwrecked in the Puget Sound, rescued by fishermen of the mid-to-late-1800’s. My oldest brother's in his mid-60’s now, and protests he saw picture-proof earlier in his life that tells a different tale. HE believes she was really half Blackfoot Indian, her and her mother traveled all the way from Saskatchewan. I simply don’t know; yet to uncover the truth. Her husband on the other hand was sporting a Scottish/Northern English surname, attributed to Old English origin. Anyway, concerning hemp I discovered something unique about my paternal surname - Darby.
If you’re into American hemp history, you’ll love it.
The Hempen Fisher-Militia of General Washington
See, perhaps the most amazing thing about hemp I’ve absorbed yet in my studies are the historical synchronicities. Nearly every turning point, every major event or paradigm shift from colonial America into the late 19th century [same could be said across most continents], from New England across the plains to the far west that defined this nation up through to today has involved hemp in one way or another. Let’s touch on the points here quickly as they relate to me personally:
Massachusetts: Where my maternal grandfather came from; different surname sure, but the setting of our short tale nonetheless.
Washington: The state I’ve spent the majority of my life in, incorporated into the Union November 11th, 1889; honorably named after our first president, a central figure in this little story alongside a crop he grew during three phases of his life; hemp.
Marblehead, MA: At the same time initial English settlers were arriving in Salem in 1626, their boats outfitted with hemp from stem to stern, Isaac Alberton, a Pilgrim off the Mayflower arrived in this area as well thanks to hempen sailcloth, cordage, and rigging less than two miles south across the bay to establish a fishing village overlooking Marblehead Harbor.
In those days colonists were in fear for their lives, constantly under threat from local Indian Tribes like the Naumkeag Tribe of the Pawtucket Confederation, under the Sachem Nanepashemet, along with pirate raids and privateers. So, under the direction of the acting governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony at the time, John (my mom’s dad’s name) Endicott, between 1629 and 1632 they built Fort Darby (my surname), or Darby’s Fort on Naugus Head at the northwest corner of the little peninsula it was situated on.
Why ‘Darby’s Fort’? Historians believe it was derived from a similar-looking headland south of ‘Derby’ England, which some of these people must’ve been rather familiar with considering where they came from.
It started as a humble fishing village but quickly grew over time, always with an ample supply of hemp from the surrounding area for their own needs and to sell to Virginia to send off to Mother England for her Royal Navy’s very survival. Then, when the Revolutionary War kicked off the first vessel commissioned for the soon-to-be U.S. Navy, Hannah, was equipped with everything she’d need including vital hemp rigging...and a crew from Marblehead, themselves always under the watchful protective eye of Fort Darby.
There’s more, you've likely seen this classic American depiction of General Washington crossing the Delaware River by Emanuel Leutze.
Well, according to historians,
“Marblehead men ferried George Washington across the Delaware River for his attack on Trenton.”
The Marblehead men from around Fort Darby are pictured in that image and those like it! See that rope hanging off the boat to the bottom-right? Yeah, that would be hemp.
Note: If you visit the Washington Crossing Historical Park's Website (they conduct reenactments each December for tourists and visitors) and check their clothing guidelines for reenactors, you'll discover they advise, "Hand-finished, well-fit, trousers of linen or hemp canvas or checked linen," and, "Plain single envelope knapsacks, drawstring canvas snapsacks, or hemp tumplines or blanket rolls." so they're appropriately dressed for the occasion. Washington's trousers among others around him are likely hemp; not to mention hats, and components of saddles on their horses.
Afterwards, knowing the Marblehead sailors as he did (the area is accredited with being the birthplace of the American Navy), he paid a special visit to Fort Darby and Marblehead during his presidential tour of 1789. By 1837, not long before hemp farming would begin its decline leading to Cannabis Prohibition about a century later, Marblehead’s fishermen had built close to 100 vessels each requiring a steady supply of hemp and ‘Jack Tar’ to keep it from rotting under constant salt water exposure.
Those colonists, the fishermen-militia of Marblehead from Fort Darby, and Washington himself wouldn’t have been able to accomplish the great deeds of their time without hemp. It was vital to them in the way petroleum has unfortunately become for us.
As citizens of Washington State, let us take on the same level of bravery knowing we’re supporting and adopting a crop that made the very nation we cherish possible. The difference is today our nation faces even greater odds - primarily of economic and environmental means. Transforming Washington State into a leader of American hemp isn’t just for our farmers, businesses, and citizens, but for our nation and the world at large.
Thanks for your time, now please, support the Washington Hemp Industry.
p.s. As for old Darby’s Fort, after the Revolutionary Period it was refurbished for the War of 1812 (fought over hemp by the way), and then outfitted with a five-gun battery for the Civil War (also arguably fought in part over hemp depending on the historian you're reading) where it was renamed Fort Miller. While there are no images or depictions of the fort, it lasted through the Spanish-American war (which is where the origins of the word 'Marihuana' can be traced) but was demolished at some point afterwards. Whether I’m connected to anyone that named the fort such, is forever a mystery.