USDA Approves Alaska’s Industrial Hemp Program
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved the Alaska Division of Agriculture’s plan for industrial hemp production, to stay in compliance with federal law.
The Non-Drug Variety
The Division of Agriculture drafted state regulations in 2019. With USDA approval, effective January 1, 2022, those regulations will now be aligned as a permanent program. While the production of hemp is under the jurisdiction of the USDA or an approved state plan, Alaska also regulates the manufacturing and sale of industrial hemp products.
“Almost every legislator and the governor have supported the establishment of the hemp industry in Alaska,” says Division of Agriculture Director Dave Schade, specifically citing the support of Senator Shelley Hughes (R-Palmer) for her role in sponsoring the two bills that paved the way for marketing industrial hemp in Alaska. “The goal is diversification of Alaska’s economy with the addition of a new crop for our farmers. Industrial hemp is one crop where Alaska is not years behind the Lower 48 in development.”
Governor Mike Dunleavy expressed hope that industrial hemp will become a viable cash crop for growers in Alaska.
“As food security, and all of agriculture, is a high priority of my administration, I am excited to see what production and markets develop in Alaska,” Dunleavy says. “We see great opportunities in local, national, and international markets.”
The production, manufacturing, and sale of all industrial hemp products require registration with the Division of Agriculture, and any persons or companies found to be operating without complying with Alaska statutes and regulations will face immediate enforcement action.
Hemp is the same species of plant as cannabis, used recreationally as marijuana, but the industrial variety has less of the psychoactive chemical THC. As a cash crop, hemp was once widely used for fiber, oil, and feed, but legal restrictions on growing the plant as a drug complicated that industry.
In Alaska, recreational marijuana is already ranked as the highest-value cash crop, since the drug was legalized by a state ballot initiative in 2014. It remains illegal under federal law.
USDA approval means Alaska’s industrial hemp program remains compliant with the 2018 Farm Bill.
As part of Alaska’s industrial hemp program, the Division of Agriculture designed a logo for producers.
This year the Alaska Railroad is celebrating 100 years of transportation people and cargo around Alaska. While the railroad is one of the states oldest transporters, it certainly isn’t the only one, and in this issue of Alaska Business we also check in on the Marine Highway, Span Alaska, and the White Pass & Yukon Route. For those interested in Southeast, our focus on that region provides updates on Kensington Mine, Tongass FCU, the troll fishery, and Juneau’s growing landfill.