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Veto Seals N.d. As A Pioneer For Hemp

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In The Hemp-Growing World, Hip, Countercultural California Is Eating North Dakota's Dust.

For the second year in a row, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed a bill that would have created state guidelines for farmers wishing to grow hemp. North Dakota passed a similar hemp guidelines law during the 2007 session with bipartisan support from lawmakers, Republican Gov. John Hoeven and Democratic Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson.

The law outlines a state permitting process for hemp, which is extensively regulated by the federal government because of its relation to marijuana. Hemp, a coarse fibrous plant with much lower THC levels than its intoxicating cousin, is used to make everything from soap to clothes.

North Dakota has gained the spotlight from hemp advocacy groups such as Vote Hemp as the national leader on pushing to let U.S. farmers grow the crop. David Monson, a farmer and Republican state legislator from Osnabrock who's suing the federal government for not letting him grow hemp under North Dakota's new law, was recently profiled in the New York Times.

The spotlight could have shone on California.

In 2006, California legislators approved a similar law but could not get it past Schwarzenegger. In his veto message this year - which was issued last week -Schwarzenegger said he's worried that the bill would tax law enforcement resources and create murkiness in the face of the federal government's disapproval.

"Unfortunately, I am very concerned that this bill would give legitimate growers a false sense of security and a belief that production of 'industrial hemp' is somehow a legal activity under federal law," he wrote to legislators.

Conrad touts deal

Fresh off behind-the-scenes negotiations on the farm bill, Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., touted a deal Wednesday that he said will secure permanent disaster aid and more favorable price supports for Midwestern crops.

Conrad, as Senate budget chairman, was part of a small circle of negotiators that also included Agriculture Committee Chairman Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa and the committee's ranking Republican, Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia.

"I believe ( the deal ) will get an overwhelming bipartisan majority," Conrad said in an interview Wednesday. "I think we're well positioned to get the farm bill done this year."

The farm bill, which is up for renewal every five years, is the nation's main statement of agriculture policy. It deals with everything from crop subsidies to land conservation, nutrition programs and the promotion of biofuels.

This year's bill must still officially pass though the Senate committee process, be voted on by the full Senate, and be reconciled with a House version that passed this summer. Conrad said he expects the process to go smoothly because the Democratic majority included Republicans in the negotiation process that concluded this week.

The inclusion of permanent disaster aid in that process can be viewed as a victory for states such as North Dakota and Montana. The aid would pre-empt the need for a separate bill when there's a drought or other disaster.

Harkin and other senators from less drought-prone parts of the Midwest had initially opposed the idea, calling it too expensive and too geographically concentrated in its benefits. Conrad said he and colleagues made "a powerful case" that earthquakes, hurricanes and tornadoes have an effect on crop outcomes even in areas without many droughts.

The deal also unwinds some of the crop subsidy favoritism toward cotton and rice enacted in past congressional sessions that were controlled by Southern lawmakers. It improves the support payment levels for crops like wheat, barley, oats and soybeans.

It proposes to spend $2.8 billion on energy development, $4.5 billion for conservation and $4.2 billion on nutrition programs such as food stamps.

Source: Bismarck Tribune (ND)
Copyright: 2007 The Bismarck Tribune
Contact: Bismarck Tribune Online
Website: BismarckTribune.com | Bismarck, North Dakota News
 
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