Tester, Bennet, Daines, Gardner, Wyden, Merkley Introduce Bill to Protect Water Rights for Hemp Farmers

(U.S. Senate) – U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-MT), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Steve Daines (R-MT), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) today introduced bipartisan legislation to ensure farmers across the West can use the water they own through private water rights to grow industrial hemp in states where it is legal.

A pilot program created by the 2014 Farm Bill granted permission to state Departments of Agriculture to license farmers to grow industrial hemp. The Bureau of Reclamation, however, prohibits the use of federally-controlled water for growing industrial hemp. These conflicting policies create confusion for farmers who grow, or wish to grow, industrial hemp using water from federal reservoirs. The Industrial Hemp Water Rights Act would clarify federal policy, ensuring owners of water rights can use their water, even if it passes through federal facilities, to cultivate industrial hemp.

“As a farmer, I know how important it is that we give our nation’s agricultural producers the flexibility they need to thrive,” Tester said. “This bill makes responsible changes so farmers can access water, grow their operations, and conduct meaningful research that expands economic opportunities for families and businesses across America.”

“This bipartisan legislation provided needed clarity for farmers in Colorado who want to grow industrial hemp legally,” Bennet said. “This is a necessary measure to fix conflicting federal policies that are slowing the implementation of the Farm Bill pilot program and stifling new business opportunities in rural Colorado. At the very least, Colorado’s farmers deserve a clear path to boost growth in our agriculture economy.”

“Private landowners should be able to use their water to grow industrial hemp, regardless of whether the water passed through federal water projects,” Daines said. “Washington, D.C. bureaucrats shouldn’t be able to restrict access to water for purposes that are allowed under state law.”

“Colorado’s industrial hemp farmers should not be restricted by over-burdensome federal regulations that don’t respect Colorado’s water laws,” Gardner said. “This bipartisan legislation recognizes our farmers’ right to access Colorado water and makes sure the federal government cannot interfere with our their operations. Coloradans know how best to manage our state’s water and it is time for the federal government to get out of the way and allow Colorado’s farming operations to succeed.”

“As I’ve said before, the federal ban on industrial hemp is not anti-drug, it’s anti-farmer,” Wyden said. “This bill ensures farmers and researchers in states like Oregon that have legalized industrial hemp can move forward with their hemp pilot projects. I’m continuing to work with my colleagues to lift the ban on hemp to allow American farmers to grow hemp on United States soil and realize the vast opportunities industrial hemp farming has to offer.

“Industrial hemp research and farming have opened up doors for farmers in Oregon and across the country,” Merkley said. “Outdated policies should not stand in the way of our farmers growing small businesses and agriculture across the U.S.”