Idaho farmers begin applying for permits to grow hemp

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Hemp came to North America in 1606. The plant’s myriad uses led to its use as a staple crop: Farmers were actually legally bound to grow hemp throughout the 1700s. The plant needs no pesticides and little water, and its long roots help prevent erosion and retain topsoil. Several states, including Colorado, Kentucky, and Vermont, allow farmers once again to grow hemp crops.

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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (AP) — The Idaho State Department of Agriculture launched its online application system for would-be hemp growers early last week, and applications are beginning to trickle in.

Nineteen hemp producer and handler applications have been entered since the system went live Nov. 8, The Times-News reported Wednesday.

Idaho became the last state in the nation to legalize the production and processing of industrial hemp earlier this year. Hemp producers, however, need to be licensed — a process that includes submitting a background check, providing information about the farm or handling facility and getting official approval from the state.

Those who are approved can begin producing and handling hemp products in 2022.

“I expect more farmers will apply,” said Buhl farmer Tim Cornie, who submitted an application. “This is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Cornie, co-owner of 1,000 Springs Mill, has been interested in growing hemp for a long time.

“We have been lobbying for it for over two years because we knew it was a product that went well with our product line and was super healthy,” Cornie said.

Some Idaho lawmakers were reluctant to allow hemp, fearing that growers would attempt to hide cannabis plants in a hemp field. The plants are both part of the same species, but hemp contains far less THC, the cannabis compound that gives cannabis its high.

“That would cause cross-pollination and make it worth zero THC,” Cornie said. “They saw the benefit of it and realized it was just a commodity like wheat and corn.”

A wide variety of food products can be made from hemp. It can be a substitute for cotton and wood fiber.

In September, a hemp-based building material company selected Jerome for its new location. Hempitecture Inc. will be building the facility at Northbridge Junction industrial park, where Interstate 84 and U.S. Highway 93 intersect in Jerome County. The 21,632-square-foot facility will manufacture HempWool, a fiber thermal insulation for residential and commercial construction projects.

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