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Hemp legalization added to Senate farm bill

Hemp legalization added to Senate farm bill

By Stephen C. Webster

In a last minute addition to the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) has submitted an amendment that would legalize the production of industrial hemp, a potential new bumper crop for U.S. farmers.

“Industrial hemp is used in many healthy and sustainable consumer products. However, the federal prohibition on growing industrial hemp has forced companies to needlessly import raw materials from other countries,” Wyden said in prepared text. “My amendment to the Farm Bill will change federal policy to allow U.S. farmers to produce hemp for these safe and legitimate products right here, helping both producers and suppliers to grow and improve Oregon’s economy in the process.”

Allowing American farmers to produce industrial hemp, which is different from its more notorious cousin marijuana, would yield significant and immediate profits the first year, according to an analysis conducted in 1998 (PDF) by the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Kentucky.

Researchers found that farmers in the state of Kentucky alone could see between $220 to $605 in net profits per acre of hemp. Adjusted for inflation using the consumer price index, those 1998 dollars would actually be worth $310 and $854 today, although the study’s authors note that variables in supply and demand for hemp could change that valuation.

The average price farmers are getting on an acre of corn, which has been falling thanks to relatively strong supply this year, clocked in at roughly $921 according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) figures out last week, but their overall take drops significantly due to the costs of production, leaving them in the $200 range on net profits. While a legalized hemp industry would likely never become as essential to Americans as corn, the potential for a high value crop and hundreds of millions, if not billions, in new economic activity is clear.

“This is the first time since the 1950s that language supporting hemp has come to the floor of the House or Senate for a vote. The last time such language was presented was the Miller’s Amendment to the Marihuana Tax Act,” Eric Steenstra, president of the advocacy group Vote Hemp, said in an advisory. “The time is past due for the Senate as well as President Obama and the Attorney General to prioritize the crop’s benefits to farmers and to take action… With the U.S. hemp industry valued at over $400 million in annual retail sales and growing, a change in federal policy to allow hemp farming would mean instant job creation, among many other economic and environmental benefits.”

It’s not clear if the bill has a shot, however. Conservative groups like the Club for Growth are urging Senators to vote against the farm bill, which is under consideration this week, because it has too many attachments unrelated to the agricultural sectors.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), has also called on other Senators to stop adding unrelated amendments, which the Senate spent much of Wednesday doing. If the Senate’s top partisans cannot find an agreeable solution to limiting the bill’s amendments, it is likely to languish and die.

The federal government does not differentiate between marijuana and industrial hemp, but it allows the importation of thousands of products made from industrial hemp. President Barack Obama’s drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, warned as recently as April in comments made online that industrial hemp was a “controlled substance,” which sent hemp advocates on a rhetorical tirade.

Bills seeking to legalize industrial hemp have cleared at least one legislative chamber in 17 states overall, including Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont and West Virginia, where those bills became law. Scientists say the psychoactive component of marijuana is almost completely undetectable in hemp.
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Global ‘water war’ threat by 2030

Global ‘water war’ threat by 2030 – US intelligence

The Mekong river. One of the predicted sources of international conflict and site for controversial dam.

Nations will cut off rivers to prevent their enemies having access to water downstream, terrorists will blow up dams, and states that cannot provide water for their citizens will collapse. This is the future – as painted by a top US security report.

­The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the organization that oversees US intelligence agencies such as the CIA and FBI, was commissioned by President Barack Obama to examine the impact of water scarcity worldwide on US security.

And while the prospect of “water wars” has been touted for decades, it may start to become reality within a decade. The ODNI predicts that by 2040 water demand will outstrip current supply by 40 per cent.

­Impoverished volatile states will be worst off

Water shortages “will hinder the ability of key countries to produce food and generate energy, posing a risk to global food markets and hobbling economic growth.” North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia will be hit the hardest, the report states.

And while the coming shortage is a manageable problem for richer countries, it is a deadly “destabilizing factor” in poorer ones. As a rule, economically disadvantaged countries are already prone to political, social and religious turmoil, and failure to provide water for farmers and city dwellers can be the spark for wider “state failure.”

Among those most vulnerable to this scenario are Sudan, Pakistan and Iraq, which are all locked in debilitating civil conflicts, and Somalia, which has effectively ceased to function as a state. ODNI envisages countries restricting water for its own citizens to “pressure populations and suppress separatist elements.” The report predicts many ordinary citizens will have to resort to the kind of purification tablets currently used by soldiers and hikers to obtain clean water.

Most dangerously, there are whole clusters of unstable countries fighting for the same waterways.

The report lists the Nile, which runs through Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt, the Jordan, which runs through Israel and several Arab countries, and the Indus, which is shared by Pakistan and India.

These areas are managed by special commissions, and the report states that “historically, water tensions have led to more water-sharing agreements than violent conflicts.” But once there is not enough water to go around, these fragile pacts may collapse, with “more powerful upstream nations impeding or cutting off downstream flow.”

Even without outright fighting, the ODNI says countries will use water as a tool of political leverage, similar to how gas and oil are used today.

Infrastructure projects will become increasingly politicized: “States will also use their inherent ability to construct and support major water projects to obtain regional influence or preserve their water interests,” the report claims.

Laos’ proposed $3.5 billion Mekong Dam has already been the subject of an international dispute with Cambodia and Vietnam, who say the dam will obliterate their fisheries and agriculture.

­Water terrorism threat

And even international compromise is not likely to be enough to ensure water safety.

“Physical infrastructure, including dams, has been used as a convenient and high-publicity target by extremists, terrorists, and rogue states, threatening substantial harm and this will become more likely beyond the next 10 years.”

The report states that an attack on a single point in a water supply, such as a canal or desalinization plant is sufficient to deprive hundreds of thousands of clean water. In return, governments will have to implement costly safety measures that are likely to be of limited use, due to the extensive length of rivers that have to be protected.

The ODNI says there is a decade to tackle the problems before they spiral out of control. It suggests revising international water treaties and investing in superior water purification technologies that will make the increasingly scarce resource plentiful again.

SOURCE