One third of Southwestern Oregon hemp farms violated state water laws in 2020

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Oregon has uncovered water violations by 33% of hemp growers last year in an audit reviewing operations in the southwestern region of the state.

The state’s Water Resources Department reviewed 187 of the 1,000 hemp farms in the region, which represents about half of the hemp operations in the state, the Capital Press reported.

But more than 80% of the farms weren’t audited. And with the high level of violations for those who were, Water Resources Commission members are worried the problems could be larger than what was reported.

Most of the violations were given to hemp farmers who irrigated their crops with well water, despite lacking water rights which is allowed domestically but prohibited commercially, Capital press reported.

More than 40% of the hemp growers visited said that had been trucking in water from municipal sources, but verifying that would require a large time commitment for the state.

The agency attributed the bulk of the problems to a lack of education and outreach, saying most farmers weren’t aware of restrictions.

Part of the purpose of the audit was to “work out kinks” and help regulate irrigation on hemp farms throughout the state.

The state plans to conduct additional reviews in 2021 to help determine whether compliance approved; however, to date, it hasn’t been able to keep up with enforcement.

To help solve this, the Oregon Department of Agriculture, which funded the audit, is asking lawmakers to fund four additional hemp enforcement positions.

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