A team from the School of Public Policy will evaluate policies that assist or inhibit tribe-based hemp farming, production, and processing

hand holding hemp plant

March 12, 2024

In partnership with faculty from the School of Public Policy (SPP), the Global Hemp Innovation Center received a $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to work with 13 Native American Tribes to spur economic development in the western United States by developing manufacturing capabilities for materials and products made from hemp.

The project, titled “Hemp-based Fiber Materials, Technology, and Commerce as Drivers for Northwest American Indian Tribal Economic Development,” seeks to develop sustainable supply chains, as well as educational and workforce opportunities, based on the needs identified by an intertribal business consortium that link regional hemp production, processing, and manufacturing to create hemp products. As a result, new wealth and jobs can be created on reservations and surrounding rural communities that will contribute towards a lower-carbon 21st Century biobased economy.

Members of the School of Public Policy, including Associate Professor of Political Science David Bernell and a master’s student in the public policy program, will establish an understanding of federal, state, and tribal policies on hemp, as well as tariffs and regulations in countries targeted for exports and the operation of Indian nation free-trade zones. 

“These policies will have a direct impact on supply chain decisions such as production, processing, warehouse locations, and modes of transportation,” said Bernell. “Understanding policies concerning commerce on tribal land and hemp is essential to propose amendments and new policies to promote hemp-based economic development that ultimately goes to support the tribes and nearby communities.”

The decriminalization of hemp with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill created a boom of interest in the potential of hemp. Initially, there was a surge in hemp planting, primarily driven by CBD (cannabidiol) demand. By 2020, hemp production had dropped off as quickly as it surged. The properties of hemp-derived materials have potential to replace those manufactured from oil, natural gas and coal, including textiles, nanofibers, electronics, polymer bio-composites and construction materials.

“The industrial use of hemp has significant potential to benefit Tribal nations and other American rural communities, but we have to understand the policy foundations and implications to ensure we’re approaching this issue wisely,” said Catherine Bolzendahl, director of the School of Public Policy. “We’re excited to contribute to this important and far-reaching collaborative project.”