A new Association of Farmers in Navajo Nation is calling on leaders and the New Mexico State Legislature to pass new laws permitting the growth of hemp as well as the regulation of industrial hemp within Navajo Nation in 2021.
According to Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and the Navajo Nation Council, hemp farming is currently unauthorized in the Navajo Nation, with a regulatory system for industrial hemp not yet adopted and the growth, possession, development, or propagation of industrial hemp not yet authorized.
This follows the publishing of articles in the Navajo Times and Gallup Independent, regarding a notorious farming operation that involved the apparent growing of hemp/marijuana in violation of Navajo law. The Association of Farmers have refuted these claims and hope to regain their own farming operations. They also bring to light the positive effects that legal hemp farming would bring to the area and the locals.
The farmers were made aware that, on June 12, 2020, the Navajo Nation filed a complaint alleging that Mr. Dineh Benally, Native American Agriculture Company, and Navajo Gold Company engaged in industrial hemp farming, which is prohibited on the Navajo Reservation. They have also learned that Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and the Navajo Nation Council had both expressed the opinion that hemp farming is currently unauthorized on the Navajo Nation, and that the Navajo Nation “has not adopted a regulatory system for industrial hemp and has not authorized the growth, possession, development, or propagation of industrial hemp.”
The farmers have subsequently been targeted by many critics including the incoming local land board and Chapter officials. As the subject of heavily biased articles, they have been unfairly connected with Mr. Dineh Benally. In attempts to rebuild their reputations and push for the modification of the Navajo Department of Justice preliminary injunction, the 17 farmers have affirmed that they were unaware of hemp operator principal Dinè Benally’s intentions to grow illegal crops.
The farmers further deny that their farms were used for the cultivation of marijuana, and if the farms were being used to grow illegal crops, it would not have been to their knowledge at the time. Since the injunction, their farms have been thoroughly inspected by the Navajo Environmental Protection Agency, following the ceasing of all operations pursuant to a TRO and Preliminary Injunction issued by the Shiprock District Court.
According to the Association of Farmers, “The stigma that has long persisted with the use of hemp must finally be addressed with reason, and we desire to educate the Navajo leaders in order to enact legislation that will finally address this issue. The local people of Navajo Nation will benefit as a result of more farming activity and employment, and the tax revenue is certainly revenue that the Navajo Nation needs. The local farming of melons, corn, and squash does not bring much financial gain to local farmers. Hemp can be used for gasoline, clothes, and other benefits, and would be far more profitable for the community.”
The Association expressed a desire to begin farming earnestly again and seek a modification of the TRO. “We haven’t broken the law and do not have any knowledge of the enrollment status or current residence of Mr. Dineh Benally, president of the San Juan River Farm Board and whom the authorities have sought in connection with illegal farming. We also do not have knowledge of the professional capacity or relationships of Mr. Scott Lam or his business entities or purported lessees who alleged to be involved in illegal hemp farming.”
The Association affirmed that none of its members are engaged in any activities relating to hemp farming, including cultivation, as this would be unlawful due to the current injunction. “However, we are still being subjected to threats of having our farms taken away on account of our greenhouses. However, the greenhouses belong to the farmers, and it is not against the law to have greenhouses on the farms. We will be using them to grow corn, melons, squash, and other means of native foods.”
The Association of Farmers was created to help the farmers to revitalize their farms and to move forward in a positive way to use the farms and their greenhouses to their full potential. “Imagine what the greenhouses can do for the community, in a time of COVID-19 where food is scarce,” the Association concluded.