Resolved: That the United States should substantially change its federal agricultural policy.

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Source: State Legislatures, Feb 2000 v26 i2 p8.

Title: Farmers Hold Out Hope for Hemp Crops.(Brief Article)

Full Text COPYRIGHT 2000 National Conference of State Legislatures

For the second year in a row, Congress had to bail out American farmers. Grain prices plunged in 1999, well below the break-even point, as did the livestock market. Pigs were selling for as little as $40 apiece; wheat for less than $2.91 a bushel, driving farm losses.

But farmers in states as diverse as Hawaii and North Dakota, seeking new crops to drive up a sagging economy, turned to an old one. They successfully lobbied to restore an age-old crop (George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew it) to help renew the family farm: hemp.

Congress banned marijuana in 1937, and in the process extended the law to hemp, a look-alike for marijuana and, indeed, in the same plant family. The laws were loosened during World War II (the federal government gave farmers seeds to spur the Hemp for Victory drive), but banned it again once the war ended. Hemp doesn't have the narcotic kick that marijuana does. Its value lies in its fibers, which can be used for rope, paper and even clothing.

Legislation to revive hemp farming passed in 1999 in Minnesota, Hawaii, Nebraska and North Dakota. Canada made hemp legal a year ago, and crops netted up to $250 per acre.

Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura contacted officials from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and outlined a plan for implementing the pro-hemp legislation enacted last spring. The DEA has strongly opposed legalizing hemp production because food- and fiber-producing hemp is nearly indistinguishable, when growing, from the narcotic variety of the cannabis plant.

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