Four ways the farm bill will boost business in rural Oregon

Caleb Diehl
A hemp farmer in Silverton

Passed this week, the $867 billion package supports emerging industries. 

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Rural Oregon had been waiting on pins and needles for the farm bill as partisanship threatened to delay it indefinitely.

Now it’s here. Congress passed the $867 billion package on Dec. 12 and it now goes to the president for his signature. Tucked within the bill are a number of provisions that could jumpstart emerging sectors of Oregon’s economy.

Industrial hemp: Industrial hemp is now legal, and analysts say it could grow into a $20 billion industry by 2022. Oregon’s climate is well suited for the crop, a cannabinoid that doesn’t produce a high like marijuana.

Oregon farmers have already been selling hemp, but the passage of the farm bill takes the product off the list of Schedule I drugs and allows growers to ship it across state lines. It also expands access to banking, small business loans and U.S. Department of Agriculture research support.

Related Story: Oregon hemp farming sees explosive growth

Mass timber: The Timber Innovation Act is also in the farm bill. The act creates a new research and development program for the new building material, and encourages domestic manufacturing.

Oregon has become a nationwide leader in mass timber manufacturing and construction, with wood products companies D.R. Johnson and Freres Lumber investing heavily in the technology.

Related Story: Mass timber moves forward despite setbacks

Forest collaborative funding: The bill doubles the funding for the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program to $80 million a year and extends it through 2023. Oregon has around 25 forest collaboratives, groups of loggers, environmentalists and business leaders often at odds with each other. They convene regularly to solve forestry issues. The Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project was selected as one of the first projects to be funded.

High-speed Internet for rural Oregon:Another provision increases funding for rural broadband. State leaders have repeatedly said this step is critical for bridging the urban-rural technology divide and supporting the tech industry in Eastern Oregon.  

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