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Conservation Group Touts Industrial Hemp

Attention: open in a new window. PDFPrintE-mail, December 12, 2013 - The Private Landowner Network, an international conservation non-profit, has joined the ever-louder chorus of voices calling for legalizing industrial hemp as a U.S. crop.

Based on research showing growing industrial hemp provides a range of environmental and economic benefits, the Private Landowner Network's Breana Behrens concludes that "it is clear that hemp is not a crop to be dismissed lightly."

Behrens writes that "Under federal law hemp is still illegal and it is prohibited from being grown in the United States. While, two bipartisan hemp bills have been introduced into Congress this year (H.R. 525; S. 359 [included as Amendment 952 in the Farm Bill]), nothing has passed." 

She adds that "One farmer in particular has brought a lot of attention to hemp legislation by growing one of the country's first commercial hemp crops in 56 years despite federal and state laws. Colorado farmer Ryan Lofin grew and harvested 55 acres of hemp this year, making a strong political statement."

Behrens lists a variety of reasons to support making growing industrial hemp legal once again:

  • "According to the Hemp Industries Association, in 2012 the U.S. hemp industry was valued at about $500 million in annual retail sales and growing for hemp products. There is a current market for hemp within the country and abroad, especially because of its ability to be used in a wide range of products."

  • "Hemp has also been touted as an environmentally friendly crop. According to a 2005 Stockholm Environmental Institute Report that compared cotton, hemp, and polyester, cotton needs 50% more water per growing season than hemp. Factor in the water requirements for processing and cotton uses four times more water to produce a final product. Also, cotton requires twice as much land per ton of finished textile than hemp."

  • "Hemp grows very densely, which prevents weeds from growing within the crop, and is generally resistant to pests. This means that the amount of pesticides that need to be applied to hemp compared to other crops such as cotton, which uses 25% of the world's insecticides and 10% of the world's pesticides, is much less. Hemp grows like a weed so it does not require much, if any, fertilizer and can be grow in a wide variety of climates (from Hawaii to Montana) and on almost any type of soil."

  • "When comparing wood and hemp fiber, both are renewable resources that can be used for paper products. However, while it takes about 25 years for a forest to mature and be harvested, hemp can grow 8-12 feet in about 3-4 months."

The Behrens article, however, points to powerful interests which may have led to banning industrial hemp in the past and which could still be an obstacle: "Some argue that there were strong lobbying forces from the forest, oil, and cotton industries to ban hemp in order to expand their empires, since hemp can be used for all of these purposes." The PLN article on industrial hemp is available at: