Merkley, Wyden Announce $10 Million for Oregon State University Hemp Research

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden today announced that Oregon State University (OSU) will receive a $10 million federal grant for research on sustainable hemp production.

The grant is part of more than $146 million awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to invest in research aimed at addressing agriculture-related issues, including climate change impacts.

“Hemp is already becoming a cash crop in Oregon, and its many different uses—from hemp hearts on a salad to fiber for a T-shirt to therapeutic CBD oil—create a lot of potential for farmers across the state,” said Merkley, who has used his role on the Senate Appropriations Committee to secure millions of dollars for hemp research at OSU’s Global Hemp Innovation Center and other institutions. “As I continue to push USDA to develop a fair and reasonable regulatory framework for the hemp industry, additional research is vital to inform both growers and regulators. I’m pleased that this award will support OSU’s trailblazing hemp research.”

“These federal resources earned by Oregon State are a well-deserved investment in the university’s world-renowned hemp research that also supports farmers in Oregon and nationwide,” Wyden said. “I’m both gratified that USDA has recognized OSU’s groundbreaking research in this growth crop, and am committed to continuing the work needed to get federal regulators to treat hemp fairly.”

“The Global Hemp Innovation Center with its many partners is fortunate to receive this grant that will allow us to work closely with farmers, businesses, manufacturers, and rural community and American Indian tribal leaders to determine what kinds of hemp should be grown and where processing facilities located to help expand opportunities for the hemp industry in Oregon and the rest of the West,” said Jeffrey Steiner, Associate Director Global Hemp Innovation Center at Oregon State University. “This project builds on research that was begun two years ago with the support of Senators Merkley and Wyden to help establish the center’s efforts. Working together, we will be able to build a sound scientific and business foundation for producing healthful food and personal care products, high-performance textiles, and biobased materials.”

Merkley and Wyden helped create a pilot program to legalize U.S. hemp production in the 2014 farm bill. Then, in the 2018 farm bill, they secured bipartisan support to successfully include the Hemp Farming Act of 2018—officially recognizing hemp as an agricultural product in the United States. Since then, hemp has quickly become one of Oregon’s leading cash crops, and many feel it has the potential to bring in more than $1 billion in sales to Oregon in the coming years. Merkley and Wyden have been pushing the USDA to develop a fair and reasonable regulatory framework that would allow hemp farmers in Oregon and across the country to compete in the global hemp industry.

Hemp is unique in that it can be used as a base material to create many different products, and it is not water-intensive—particularly important for Oregon farmers who have faced consecutive years of severe drought, driven by climate change

With this grant, researchers will “determine the feasibility of establishing sustainable supply chains for biobased manufacturing to help hemp reach its potential in the rural western U.S. economic landscape,” their proposal explains. “The outcome from this project will be to provide farmers, financial decision-makers, rural and tribe business developers, policy makers, federal and state service agency providers, and regulators the science-based information they need to make decisions when evaluating the technical, economic, environmental, and social dynamics of incorporating hemp-based industries into the four-state regional economy across Washington, Oregon, Nevada, and California.”

The $10 million grant funds this research over five years.