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Hemp has upper hand

An appeal of a hemp processing facility outside Ashland is likely a precursor to more such disputes involving Oregon’s newest farm crop. The explosion of hemp acreage has caused friction with rural residents unaccustomed to the aroma of ripening hemp flowers, and the use of plastic as a weed and moisture barrier has raised environmental concerns.

Now, neighbors of a hemp farm off Valley View Road are challenging the Jackson County Planning Department’s approval of a CBD oil extraction facility on the property. It’s unfortunate that the hemp farm has disturbed neighbors with noise from generators and odor from the plants, but the law is on the side of the farmers.

Oregon law protects farming and related activities on properly zoned land from complaints about noise, dust and odors to preserve the economic health of the farm economy. Allowing residents to shut down legitimate farming operations over the unavoidable side effects of farming would damage one of the state’s major industries.

Because Southern Oregon’s climate is especially hospitable to growing hemp, thousands of acres have been planted. Market forces likely will trim that acreage if prices fall below profitable levels. But producers who can extract their own CBD oil, adding value to their crop, could do quite well.

County planners are requiring the Valley View operation to use a CO2 extraction process, which does not pose the fire hazard and potential ground contamination that ethanol-based processing does.

The hemp industry will shake out over time. Meanwhile, growers and neighbors need to learn to coexist.