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Your View: Industrial hemp is not healthy

Can anyone tell me why the Mail Tribune seems so supportive of the industrial hemp industry that has stormed into this community, taking over our beautiful farmland, replacing it with mile after mile of environmentally destructive plastic?

The Mail Tribune seems to play down the substantial environmental problems of plastic and other hemp industry problems. I would like to offer four simple proposals to make hemp farms more responsible.

First, let’s run some numbers — from the Mail Tribune itself — and get a reality check:

There are currently 17,106 acres of hemp in Southern Oregon.

Multiply that by 100-200 pounds of plastic per acre. (https://mailtribune.com/news/top-stories/cash-crop-07-09-2019 ).

Which gives a conservative total of between 1.7 million and 3.4 million pounds of plastic going into landfills this fall.

The Mail Tribune highlights two farms trying to deal with the plastic problem. One farm is using straw — on three-quarters of an acre. And there’s a total of less than 100 acres using biodegradable plastic.

So, to do the math, that means there’s still:

1.69 million to 3.39 million pounds of plastic going into landfills this year alone.

While environmentally responsible citizens avoid using plastic straws, the profit-driven hemp industry fills our landfills with millions of pounds of single-use plastic.

Responsible farmers — the kind of farmers who’ve lived and worked in this beautiful valley for generations — speak of three tenets of responsible farming: social, environmental and fiscal.

The industrial hemp “farmers” are interested only in financial gain, abandoning anything but a public relations concern for the environment, while using huge tax breaks on “Exclusive Farm Use” lands to develop industrial products.

As to social responsibility, let me tell you about my “neighbors.” We’ve lived on rural property just outside of Ashland for over 35 years. This spring, investors from New York bought 200 acres of prime farmland and filled it with hemp and plastic. They had tractors going all hours day and night, greenhouses glowing all night, RVs parked illegally, and have proposed building a CBD and hash oil industrial processing factory on farm land directly opposite our home.

As to financial responsibility: according to the article in the Mail Tribune, the price of hemp is expected to decline by 75% this year. The focus of the Mail Tribune hemp articles has been on the financial benefits of hemp, but even that is suspect.

Citizens need to become activists to push for new regulations to save our farmland. I would like to offer four simple proposals to make hemp farms more responsible:

1. No processing facilities in Exclusive Farm Use zoned lands.

2. No plastic allowed for farmers totaling fields of 1 acre or more.

3. Limit greenhouse lighting hours to 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (the current restriction for pot greenhouses).

4. Limit total hemp acreage to prevent oversupply and until environmental impacts can be assessed.

In two years, either the hemp farms will be gone or many of us longtime Rogue Valley citizens will. Even the local pot farmers complain about the incoming hemp “farmers”.

Please join me in contacting your government representatives, attending meetings, discussing these matters with your friends and writing letters to the editor.

Arnie Abrams lives in Ashland.

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