Category Archives: Farming

Fresh crop: Wilson among Kentucky’s new hemp farmers

Chad WilsonChad Wilson of Cave City stands next a row of industrial hemp he is growing on his farm called the Sacred Seed Farm. He is growing hemp for the cannabidiol or CDB, which is extracted from the plant and can be used to treat certain illnesses. Gina Kinslow / Glasgow Daily Times

BY GINA KINSLOW gkinslow@glasgowdailytimes.com

CAVE CITY – Seven years ago, Chad Wilson was anti-industrial hemp, but that’s mostly because he didn’t really know what it was. He thought industrial hemp and marijuana were the same thing.

But they’re not. Industrial hemp is different from marijuana, even though they are part of the same plant family.

“All my life I was told to stay away from the Devil’s lettuce, and that’s what I did as a good southern boy,” he said. “I didn’t understand that hemp wasn’t marijuana.”

The major difference between the two is that industrial hemp contains a much lower concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, than marijuana.

THC is the hallucinogenic that is found in marijuana.

“There is no getting high off industrial hemp,” he said.

After seven years, Wilson has come a long way. He has gone from being anti-industrial hemp to being an industrial hemp farmer. He is also now a cannabis activist.

He grows hemp on land in Cave City he calls the Sacred Seed Farm, and says he got into industrial hemp farming by accident.

“I was doing organic farming on a little two acre plot in Bowling Green. I realized my son did not know how to grow his own food and seeds. At that point I was just doing traditional gardening, so I got into finding ways to teach him and stumbled across some stuff on hemp and the nutritional value,” he said.

Then he discovered that studies are showing an extract of industrial hemp can be used to aid in the treatment of certain illnesses, even epilepsy. He also learned that industrial hemp can be used to make biodiesel fuel and clothing, among other things.

Wilson planted a little more than nine acres of industrial hemp this year. He is one of two hemp farmers in Barren County, and one of many across the state.

“In order to be a hemp producer, it is a permitting process and that process is handled by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture in cooperation with law enforcement so that everybody is on the same page. They know where every hemp production is,” said Chris Schalk, Barren County’s Agriculture Extension Agent. “I guess this is probably the second or third year for the permitting process.”

The federal farm bill of 2014 allowed state departments of agriculture to create industrial hemp research pilot programs.

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles hosted a roundtable discussion for Barren County producers in October at the Barren County Cooperative Extension Service’s office off West Main Street, and during his talk he mentioned industrial hemp.

“Industrial hemp obviously gets a lot of publicity. We have a very strong industrial research hemp program here. We want to remind people that this may not be a silver bullet for tobacco, but it might be something that works for some farmers. It may not work for others,” he said. “My family used to grow it in World War II because the government asked them to for the U.S. Navy. For some people we believe this could be a profitable market.”

On Wilson’s Sacred Seed Farm, he grows industrial hemp for the cannabidiol or CDB, a natural plant compound with significant medical benefits.

Wilson is co-owner of a Louisville-based business called Green Remedy.

“We buy the hemp from the farmers and then we take it into our facility and we have a CO2 extraction where we extract the CDB and then we make the tinctures and the capsules and the isolets and all the different kinds of products, and it is a Kentucky Proud Product,” he said.

Wilson is also owner of another business called Modern Concepts, which is located on the Sacred Seed Farm in Cave City.

“This is about a 4-year-old business that I moved from Bowling Green because I wanted to get back to small town America. I wanted to get back to country living and back home to the country,” Wilson said. “We’re losing farm families every day across the state and my family was one of the ones who lost their farm in the early ’80s due to the economics of farming. For me, it’s personal and it’s about getting my boys back to the farm and living simpler.”

Modern Concepts is a garden supply center that will offer organic, hydroponic, aquaponic and aeroponicly grown plants.

“We’re also a distributor for a “Shark Tank’ product – the Tree-T-Pee. What we’re doing is basically going out and finding the specialty product for this industry and bringing it to Cave City,” he said.

Industrial hemp farming has become an economically viable business for many producers.

“There’s not a lot crops out there right now that can bring the economic hope to the small Kentucky farm like this plant can right now,” Wilson said.

Despite all the things industrial hemp has going for it, it is considered to be a Schedule I controlled substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act, along with other varieties of cannabis. But that is something U.S. Rep. James Comer, R-Tompkinsville, is hoping to change.

“I have a bill that I’m working on … that will address all of the updates that are needed with the hemp industry. And that’s the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2017,” Comer said.

The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2017 will do a lot of things, but the main thing it will do is reclassify industrial hemp from a controlled substance to an agriculture crop.

“That will solve a lot of the problems right there,” he said.

Comer, a former Kentucky commissioner of agriculture, referred to industrial hemp as being “a huge success story.”

“That’s something I was glad to be a part of in a big way and that’s kind of the issue that I’m identified with. When we passed it in 2013 in Kentucky, nobody would have predicted that here we are four years later and we are the leading hemp producing state in the nation,” he said. “It’s just been a real good success story. There’s a lot of hemp being grown in Kentucky. A lot of companies that are coming into the state are making a big private investment, so I think the future looks very bright for the hemp industry in Kentucky.”

Extracting CDB from industrial hemp is not the only thing that can be done with the plant.

“It is being used as fiber in textiles. It is being used as a heavy duty fiber in a lot of the tarps that is used in the military. We’ve got companies trying to use the fiber to make components for the automotive industry for mainly the dashboards and door panels for cars in Europe,” Comer said

Industrial hemp is also being grown for livestock feed.

“Murray State University is doing a lot of research on hemp from that aspect because it yields so much more per acre than fescue hay,” he said. “And they are testing the digestibility and the nutrient content. Cattle eat it. That’s for sure.”

Comer continued that he thinks more and more uses will surface for industrial hemp because it is a plant than can be used in so many ways.

“It can be used in bioenergy. It can be used in textiles. It can be used in pharmaceuticals. It can be used in construction. There seems like for every potential use of hemp there is interest in companies to come into the state and make an investment and start processing the hemp here in Kentucky, which would be good,” he said. “It would be good for farmers. It would be good for job creation.

“I think that once we can get legislation on the federal level that deregulates hemp, I think you’ll see more private dollars flow in and more processing facilities come online and therefore more farmers will grow it.”

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A Kentucky-based hemp seed grower is the first company to have its seeds approved and officially certified by the Colorado Department of Agriculture.

 

 

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Blair Miller

DENVER – A Kentucky-based hemp seed grower is the first company to have its seeds approved and officially certified by the Colorado Department of Agriculture.

Lexington, Kentucky-based Schiavi Seeds LLC had three separate seed varieties certified as CDA Approved Certified Seeds under the new program, which aims to promote hemp agriculture in the state.

CDA has worked with CSGA and Colorado State University over the past several months to breed plants that produce seeds under the 0.3 percent THC content threshold to qualify as hemp and not psychoactive marijuana.

Varying seed types were grown and tested in trials in different parts of the state in order to find ideal conditions for hemp cultivation.

Colorado law requires industrial hemp seeds to contain less than 0.3 percent THC. Three trial seeds from Schiavi Seeds – Eletta Campana, Fibranova and Helena – passed trial tests and were accepted by the state Seed Growers Association’s review board.

CDA says seeds submitted by Fort Collins-based New West Genetics have also passed the THC trial, but still have to be accepted by the review board before they can also be labeled as a CDA Approved Certified Seed.

Congress approved hemp production in 2014, but a state certification like Colorado’s is necessary to raise the crop.

Colorado farmers will be able to start buying and growing the seeds next year.

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Commonwealth of Hemp: Kentucky continues to sow seeds of industrial crop’s resurgence –

Posted on March 21, 2016
by Dan Dickson

Illustration by Catherine Nichols

Illustration by Catherine Nichols

Select Kentucky farmers will be growing more hemp in 2016 than at any time since the federal government effectively banned the crop in the 1930s, along with its hallucinogenic cousin, marijuana.

This year, 144 farmers and 10 universities across the state will engage in the third year of pilot research projects in the state that many hope will lead to full restitution of hemp as a commercial fiber, feed and pharmaceutical agent.

“We anticipate over 4,000 acres will be grown in Kentucky this year, which is more than four times the number of acres grown last year,” said Ryan Quarles, the recently elected state agriculture commissioner.

In fact, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture says about 4,500 acres of hemp will be grown for the projects this year, up from 900 acres last year and just 33 acres during the inaugural planting season in 2014.

Permission to grow the crop on an experimental basis is authorized under special language inserted into the federal farm bill by U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky. Quarles said industrial hemp, once a major Kentucky farm staple, is highly marketable and hopes Congress will one day see it that way and legalize it.

“As long as it is grown and cultivated as part of a pilot program, it can be transported, processed and sold across state lines,” said Jonathan Miller, a spokesman for the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Council. “Each year, the Kentucky projects are getting bigger, more elaborate and more successful.”

Miller said that whether it’s this year, next year or three years from now, he’s confident Congress will “take hemp off the Schedule 1 drug list so it can be turned into an agriculture commodity and we won’t have to deal any more with pilot programs.”

Farmers, producers unite

Josh Hendricks, a Montgomery County farmer, will be growing hemp again this year. He has formed a company, Hendricks Hemp, to be ready for the day he can freely sell his crops anytime, anywhere.

“We are still trying to figure out what varieties grow well here in order to produce whatever you want to produce from a hemp plant, whether it is fiber, grain or CBD,” short for the medically useful compound cannibidiol, said Hendricks.

Since Kentucky growers must align themselves with a processor or manufacturer before they enter the hemp pilot program, Hendricks has become affiliated with C.V. Sciences, a California producer of dietary and health products. The company  currently imports hemp from Europe but wants a dependable domestic source and hopes Kentucky and Hendricks will be its prime supplier.

Although Hendricks acknowledges that a farmer would need to grow a considerable number of acres of hemp for it to be highly profitable, he hopes the pilot program will explode into something big.

“We want to see hemp become like any other agriculture commodity in Kentucky,” he said. “I hope it will become something that will put money in the pockets of our farmers. You want to be able to say you have domestically grown, U.S.-grown, Kentucky Proud hemp for sale.”

Research remains focus

University of Kentucky hemp researcher David Williams says the state’s pilot programs focus on production science or production and management protocol to optimize crop yields. UK is a participant in the program and will be growing hemp.

A history lesson, courtesy of Williams: The main uses for hemp a century or more ago are quite different than how it could be used today.

“In the old days it was a major component of rope and heavy linen,” said Williams. “Prior to the invention of steam engines, ships were wind-powered, and the sails were made of hemp cloth. The major recipient of Kentucky hemp then was the U.S. Navy for its ships’ riggings and the sails. Neither of those components is viable today.”

However, Williams says the loss of these old industrial markets is being met by modern needs and technology that provide exciting new possibilities. Among the new applications about which Williams is most excited is the potential for hemp fibers to be a component of injected, molded composite products such as the interior door panels of automobiles or the overhead compartments of airplanes.

“The list is almost unlimited, including bathtubs, furniture and much more,” he said. “If those industries move toward replacement of synthetic fibers with natural fibers, hemp could contribute to that significantly.”

Caution amid wild optimism

Would the legalization of industrial hemp bring a windfall to Kentucky farmers and others? The enthusiasm for reigniting the industry has brought with it outsized hopes that Williams suggests are unlikely to be realized. Instead of a massive cash crop, Williams says, hemp is more likely to be more useful in rotation with other crops.

“I don’t want the public to expect a financial boom. I think that’s an unrealistic expectation,” Williams cautioned. “Realistically, we might think of hemp becoming part of the normal rotation. It won’t replace any of our current crops. Even if the market is highly significant, we still have to grow crops [and raise animals] for food.”

In other words, hemp would have to compete with other farm commodities in the state. The top 10 Kentucky farm commodities are: poultry, livestock, corn, soybeans, cattle and calves, tobacco, dairy products, hay, wheat and pigs. Devoting acreage to hemp instead of another proven commodity might be a gamble, at least for now.

“It would be very difficult for me to imagine that that would be economical,” said Williams.

Quarles, the new state agricultural commissioner, said his great-grandfather grew hemp in Kentucky while his son, Quarles’ grandfather, fought in World War II.

“That was a common story in Kentucky then,” said Quarles. “The federal government actually asked farmers to grow it for the war effort.”

– See more at: http://bizlex.com/2016/03/commonwealth-hemp-kentucky/#sthash.N1uIMFUv.dpuf

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Washington Governor Vetoes Industrial Hemp Legalization

By Julia Granowicz – Mar 16, 2016

washington-govenor-vetoes-industrial-hemp

Industrial Hemp has been illegal in the United States as long as its THC producing twin – and the plant has over 100 known uses as cloth material, as a cooking oil, and it was once a fundamental part of our country. While we see a lot surrounding the reform of laws for THC producing marijuana, the industrial plant doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves.

Lawmakers in Washington recently passed a bill (unanimously in the House of Representatives and 48-1 in the Senate) which would have legalized the cultivation of industrial hemp plants for research purposes. It would also be setting up a program to keep track of the plants and allow Washington University to study the plant.

Unfortunately, after making it through both sides, the bill never stood a chance because the Governor of Washington, Jay Inslee, decided to issue a large batch of vetoes in what appears to be a form of punishment since lawmakers have yet to settle on a budget.

“Given legislators’ inability to complete their number one job, I measured these bills against the importance of the budget and set a very high bar,” Inslee said in a written statement.

“I recognize this is perhaps the largest single batch of vetoes in history. None of these vetoed bills were as important as the fundamental responsibility of passing a budget. I continue to hope legislators will focus on negotiations and reach agreement as quickly as possible.”

This did not go unnoticed by those in the Farm Bureau who have been waiting and hoping for this bill to pass. As well as calling out the Governor on an “overstepped power play” and claiming that he failed to “be the grown-up in the room”, they also prodded at the Governor’s own opinions about saving the environment by saying he wasted all the fuel and electricity invested in the passing of these bills when he vetoed them.

“Our current governor continues to show an uncanny ability to drive a wedge between his office and legislators,” according to the Farm Bureau.

While it was clearly disappointing to many people throughout the state of Washington, the bill will likely have a second chance in the current 30 day session. Seeing as it passed through with ease the first time, the second should be a breeze as well. However, if they do not also pass a budget during this next 30 days, who is to say Inslee will not simply make the same move again?

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Declaration on Seed Freedom

  1. Seed is the source of life, it is the self urge of life to express itself, to renew itself, to multiply, to evolve in perpetuity in freedom.
  2. Seed is the embodiment of bio cultural diversity. It contains millions of years of biological and cultural evolution of the past, and the potential of millennia of a future unfolding.
  3. Seed Freedom is the birth right of every form of life and is the basis for the protection of biodiversity.
  4. Seed Freedom is the birth right of every farmer and food producer. Farmers rights to save, exchange, evolve, breed, sell seed is at the heart of Seed Freedom. When this freedom is taken away farmers get trapped in debt and in extreme cases commit suicide.
  5. Seed Freedom is the basis of Food Freedom, since seed is the first link in the food chain.
  6. Seed Freedom is threatened by patents on seed, which create seed monopolies and make it illegal for farmers to save and exchange seed. Patents on seed are ethically and ecologically unjustified because patents are exclusive rights granted for an invention. Seed is not an invention. Life is not an invention.
  7. Seed Freedom of diverse cultures is threatened by Biopiracy and the patenting of indigenous knowledge and biodiversity. Biopiracy is not innovation – it is theft.
  8. Seed Freedom is threatened by genetically engineered seeds, which are contaminating our farms, thus closing the option for GMO-free food for all. Seed Freedom of farmers is threatened when after contaminating our crops, corporations sue farmer for “stealing their property”.
  9. Seed Freedom is threatened by the deliberate transformation of the seed from a renewable self generative resource to a non renewable patented commodity. The most extreme case of non renewable seed is the “Terminator Technology” developed with aim to create sterile seed.
  10. We commit ourselves to defending seed freedom as the freedom of diverse species to evolve; as the freedom of human communities to reclaim open source seed as a commons.

To this end, we will save seed, we will create community seed banks and seed libraries, we will not recognize any law that illegitimately makes seed the private property of corporations. We will stop the patents on seed.


Click here to sign the declaration

Click here to download a PDF

CONTINUE TO SOURCE…

Monsanto to face ‘tribunal’ in The Hague for ‘damage to human health and environment’

Published time: 5 Dec, 2015 06:08

© Mal Langsdon

A global group of professionals, scientists and environmentalists – the Monsanto Tribunal – are preparing a trial for the GMO seed giant in The Hague. They say the crowdfunded action, determined to charge Monsanto with “ecocide,” is more than a symbolic move.

READ MORE: Putin wants Russia to become world’s biggest exporter of Non-GMO food

The Monsanto Tribunal’s goal is to research and evaluate all of the allegations made against Monsanto in connection to all the damages its products have caused to human health and the environment. It is scheduled to be held at The Hague from October 12 to 16 in 2016. The trial will wrap up on next year’s World Food Day.

One of the main goals the broad group of signees [ABOUT US] wants the tribunal to achieve is establishing “ecocide” as a crime. “Recognizing ecocide as a crime is the only way to guarantee the right of humans to a healthy environment and the right of nature to be protected,” The International Monsanto Tribunal says on its website.

The Tribunal will look into a range of charges, including what it says are Monsanto’s crimes against nature and humanity.

“The Tribunal will rely on the ‘Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights’ adopted at the UN in 2011. It will also assess potential criminal liability on the basis of the Rome Statue that created the International Criminal Court in The Hague in 2002, and it will consider whether a reform of international criminal law is warranted to include crimes against the environment, or ecocide, as a prosecutable criminal offense, so that natural persons could incur criminal liability.”

Several bodies and groups are supporting the initiative, including the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), IFOAM International Organics, Navdanya, Regeneration International (RI), and Millions Against Monsanto, as well as dozens more farming and environmental groups.

The decision to proceed with the tribunal was announced by the groups shortly before the Sustainable Pulse report was published, which was part of the COP21 UN Conference on Climate Change that runs until December 11 in Paris.

“The time is long overdue for a global citizens’ tribunal to put Monsanto on trial for crimes against humanity and the environment. We are in Paris this month to address the most serious threat that humans have ever faced in our 100-200,000 year evolution—global warming and climate disruption,” the president of the Organic Consumers Association, Ronnie Cummins, said at the press conference.

Meanwhile, president of IFOAM and member of the RI Steering Committee Andre Leu accused Monsanto of ignoring the human and environmental damage created by its products. Leu added that the transnational is able to maintain its devastating practices “by lobbying regulatory agencies and governments, by resorting to lying and corruption, by financing fraudulent scientific studies, by pressuring independent scientists, and by manipulating the press and media.”

“Monsanto’s history reads like a text-book case of impunity, benefiting transnational corporations and their executives, whose activities contribute to climate and biosphere crises and threaten the safety of the planet,” Leu stressed.
The American-based company has enjoyed a good reputation in the US media and is known for its strong ties on Capitol Hill.

The Monsanto Tribunal argues that the company is responsible for the depletion of soil and water resources, species extinction, and declining biodiversity, as well as the displacement of millions of small farmers worldwide.

Farmers in certain countries have been taking these developments very hard. In India, an alarming wave of suicides tied to Monsanto’s practices has been registered among farmers.
Instead of traditional crops, farmers have been forced to grow GM cotton, which is more expensive and requires additional maintenance. In the last 20 years, this trend has driven some 290,000 farmers to commit suicide due to bankruptcy, according to India’s national crimes bureau records.

READ MORE: GMO that kills: GM-cotton problems drive Indian farmers to suicide

Subjecting Monsanto to real legal consequences will be a challenge, though, as the corporation has never lost a case.

The company is notorious for routinely suing farmers, which has earned it the reputation of a legal bully in the eyes of critics. According to Food Democracy Now, the GMO corporation has filed 145 lawsuits since 1997, because farmers had reused their seeds in a manner inconsistent with Monsanto policies. This even includes cases where the farmers themselves had sued Monsanto for the inadvertent cross-pollination of their organic crops with GMO seeds.

One lawsuit representing 300,000 farmers was thrown out of court – for the mere reason that the farmers had already been sued by Monsanto. According to Food Democracy Now, the judge called the farmers’ case “unsubstantiated.”

Untold damage has also been caused to the ecosphere by the dying-off of 970 million Monarch butterflies since 1990. The herbicides Monsanto sells eradicate a range of the prolific pollinators’ natural food sources. The statistic was released by the US Fish and Wildlife Service in February.

READ MORE: Monsanto monarch massacre: 970 million butterflies killed since 1990

People demonstrated in over 400 major cities across the world in May to tell the GMO giant they do not want its produce in their food. It was the third global March Against Monsanto (MAM).

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Legalizing Weed: 4 Agricultural Benefits of Industrial Hemp Cultivation

By Andrea Miller   |   Tuesday, 01 Dec 2015 06:56 PM

As legalizing weed becomes more and more prevalent among U.S. states, industrial hemp cultivation is one such change that has the potential to benefit the farming industry.
For agriculture to continue to be a viable industry in the U.S., profound change is needed in order to bolster economic opportunity for farmers. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, there were 6.8 million farms in the nation in 1935. Today, there are just 2.2 million farms even as the population has increased, and many principal farm owners and/or operators are older than age 60.
Urgent: Should Marijuana Be Legalized in All States?
Here are four agricultural benefits of industrial hemp cultivation:
1. Hemp can serve as an alternative to tobacco. As more Americans quit smoking and fewer young people start, tobacco is no longer a viable product for many farmers. One study conducted by the University of Kentucky, reported by the North American Industrial Hemp Council, found that industrial hemp has the potential to become the most profitable crops for the state second only to tobacco, and may be able to serve as an alternative crop for tobacco farmers whose product is no longer in demand.
2. There are production advantages for farmers who grow hemp. This hardy plant is less susceptible to fluctuations in weather and other environmental conditions than other plants, such as cotton. This means that farmers are more likely to profit from their investment in an industrial hemp crop, and are able to grow a substantial amount of hemp in a relatively small acreage. Experts also note that an industrial hemp crop requires minimal maintenance compared to output.
3. Industrial hemp crops help to enrich the soil. A boon for any farmer, the growth pattern of this plant naturally creates more nutrient-rich soil. Because the dense leaves block sunlight, few weeds grow among industrial hemp crops. The deep roots of the plants provide nitrogen and other minerals to the earth, while reducing the salinity of the groundwater and minimizing topsoil erosion. In addition, this crop is ideal for composting to grow other plants, such as wheat or soy.
Vote Now: How Do You Feel About Marijuana Legalization?
4. Industrial hemp is a profitable rotation crop. While the rotation crop system is often necessary for sustainable agriculture, few of these crops are truly profitable. However, industrial hemp not only makes an excellent rotation crop because of the features listed in the previous item, but because of the huge U.S. market for the plant, farmers may be able to keep businesses running that would have not otherwise survived.

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Hemp advocates hope to see a resurgence of the crop that’s legal for the first time in decades.

Hemp advocates hope to see a resurgence of the crop that's legal for the first time in decades.

Javier Rodriguez helps harvest some of the 27 acres of hemp on an Andy Graves’ farm near Winchester, Ky. GenCanna, which moved to Kentucky from Canada to focus on hemp, harvested the 27 acres of hemp grown this year in Winchester and processed it to produce a kind of powder they plan to sell to companies that want to put hemp in nutritional supplements. A law was passed in early 2014 to allow experimental hemp farming in states that conduct agricultural research.

By Paul Woolverton, Staff writer

By next summer, some North Carolina farm fields could be filled with cannabis plants – not marijuana, but hemp, which is marijuana’s near-twin in appearance but has little of the ingredient that makes people high.

For the first time in decades, hemp will be a legal crop in this state.

Initially it’s to be grown only on an experimental basis. But hemp advocates hope North Carolina will become part of a national revival of a hemp industry that was knocked down in the 20th century when hemp was lumped in with marijuana by national and local laws against illicit drugs.

The 21st-century American hemp revival is somewhat reminiscent of Colonial times. In the 1700s, according to historical records, leaders in North Carolina and other English colonies in North America encouraged farmers to grow hemp. They aimed to generate income with exports.

In 1766, North Carolina’s legislature voted to open a hemp-inspection warehouse in Campbellton, one of the two towns that later merged and became Fayetteville. A journal of the legislative session says the lawmakers also renewed for four years a bounty paid to hemp farmers.

More than two centuries later, North Carolina and the United States were importing all of their hemp products. After encouraging hemp production during World War II to supply the military with rope and other materials, the government effectively banned hemp farming in 1970. The last known American commercial crop was reported to have been grown in Wisconsin in 1957, according to The Denver Post newspaper.

In early 2014, Congress and the president approved a law to allow experimental hemp farming in states that conduct agricultural research. North Carolina’s lawmakers voted nearly unanimously in late September to join this effort. The legislation, which emerged with little warning or opportunity for vetting or public comment in the final days of the 2015 lawmaking session, creates the opportunity "to study the growth, cultivation, or marketing of industrial hemp."

Including North Carolina, 27 states are pursuing hemp production, says the Vote Hemp Inc. advocacy group.

That’s great news for people such Brenda Harris, who operates the The Apple Crate Natural Market health food stores in Fayetteville and Hope Mills. The hemp seed, hemp-based protein powders and hemp-based soaps, lotions and oils on her shelves are imported from Canada and overseas.

Hemp seed is high in protein, Harris said, and in essential fatty acids that people need for good health.

Cannabidiol, also known as CBD oil, is reported to reduce nausea, suppress seizures, help with cancer, tumors, anxiety and depression and other health problems, says the Leaf Science website. But it notes that most of the studies that made these findings were with animals, not people.

In addition, hemp can be used in a number of fiber-based products.

"I’d love to know my dollars were supporting a North Carolina farmer," Harris said.

"It will definitely mean the product will be more competitively priced," she said. "And it’s not a terribly expensive product to start with, but still I feel like with bringing that closer to home, it’ll be more sustainable, there’ll be less shipping involved, there’ll be less mark-up involved. That’s usually the way the chain works."

New opportunities

Organic farmer Lee Edwards of Kinston, about 90 minutes east of Fayetteville, could become one of Harris’ North Carolina suppliers.

Edwards plans to become part of North Carolina’s hemp pilot project and get a crop into the ground in mid-2016. He thinks hemp will make more money than the corn, wheat, soybeans and cereal grains he grows now.

"It’s a lower input cost and a higher profit per acre crop," Edwards said. He estimated hemp could net him $1,250 per acre after expenses versus the $400 at most "on a real good year" from traditional grains. And he hopes that he can get two hemp crops a year.

Las Vegas-based Hemp Inc. opened a processing plant last year in Spring Hope, between Raleigh and Rocky Mount. It has been extracting fiber from kenaf, which is similar to hemp (and never was banned), and plans to process hemp as it becomes legal and available in the U.S.

The decortication plant extracts fibers that can be used in paper, clothing and other fiber-based products, even car parts and building materials, according to the Hemp Inc. website.

Back in Fayetteville, researcher Shirley Chao and her students at Fayetteville State University might be able to get North Carolina-grown hemp seed for their research into a hemp-derived insecticide. Until now, they have been buying imported seed.

Over the past several years, Chao and her students discovered that chemicals in hemp have a variety of detrimental effects on roaches, carpenter ants and grain-eating beetles.

"We found that it’s very effective in controlling reproduction," Chao said. "And when they feed on it, they don’t develop normally. And so they, most of them, either die or have these deformations that you can see. And then if they do survive, they don’t reproduce normally."

Chao hopes that further research will demonstrate that the hemp-based pesticide has no ill effects on people or other vertebrates. That quality could make it preferable to other pesticides in use today.

The school also is seeking a patent for the pesticide.

Regulatory system

Before anyone buys hemp legally grown in North Carolina, the state has to set up its system to regulate it and issue hemp-growing licenses to the farmers.

That process is not moving as quickly as advocates would like.

The new hemp law says a state commission must be set up to license and regulate the growers. But first, the industry has to raise $200,000 in private donations to pay for the commission.

As of mid-November, about $20,000 had been raised, said Thomas Shumaker, the executive director of the N.C. Industrial Hemp Association.

Shumaker’s group led the effort at the legislature this year to pass the hemp law.

Once the money is raised, a five-person N.C. Industrial Hemp Commission will be appointed to set up the state’s hemp program, the law says. It is to work with federal law enforcement or other federal agencies as appropriate, vet people seeking licenses and set rules for how the program will operate.

Because of law enforcement concerns, the GPS coordinates of every hemp farm will be noted, and the hemp will be subject to testing to ensure that it isn’t actually marijuana. Under the law, hemp plants must have no more than 0.3 percent THC content, the psychoactive chemical that makes marijuana users high.

Marijuana typically has 5 to 20 percent THC and the highest grades carry 25 to 30 percent, Leaf Science says.

It will probably be June before North Carolina’s hemp regulatory system is in place and farmers can start planting, Shumaker said.

Learning from others

In the meantime, the state’s farmers can learn from growers in several other states who have been experimenting with hemp.

Kentucky just finished its second year of its pilot project. It had 922 acres planted in 2015, said Adam Watson, the industrial hemp program coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.

The state is looking at different varieties of hemp for grain (the seeds), fiber and nutraceuticals, which are oils that are thought to have health benefits.

The program has worked with with law enforcement, Watson said. Police know the growers have hemp, not marijuana, he said, but some thieves didn’t know the difference and went into a field and stole some.

Farmers have tested seed from Canada, Australia and Europe, he said. They are allowed to sell their harvest, but it’s too soon to figure out yet the extent of the potential market, he said.

While hemp can be used to make paper, textiles, building materials and other items, it may not necessarily be the best raw material for those products, Watson said. Much depends on whether the hemp-based products prove to be practical and cost-effective, he said.

Watson and other industry observers said the American hemp industry is in a chicken-and-egg situation in getting started: Because there have been no growers, there is no marketplace or infrastructure to buy their product. But without growers, there is no incentive to set up a marketplace.

But there is demand for hemp.

The Congressional Research Service this year estimated that in 2013, the United States imported $36.9 million in hemp products. The Hemp Industries Association estimated that the total U.S. retail value of hemp products in 2013 was $581 million, the research service said.

People like Edwards, the farmer from Kinston, want a piece of that market.

"I hope to start with around 50 acres," Edwards said. "That’s more of just getting going the first year. Depending on how things go, I’d love to get up to a couple hundred acres."

Staff writer Paul Woolverton can be reached at woolvertonp@fayobserver.com or 910-486-3512.

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Stars, Stripes, and Hemp Fly over Capitol

  • By Tim Marema
  • November 11, 2015

    Photo by Donnie Hedden 2015

    A plant the federal law says is a Schedule I controlled substance was used to make the U.S. flag that will fly over the Capitol on Veterans Day. Industrial hemp could be a boon for small farmers, say proponents, including the U.S. veteran who grew the hemp used to make the flag.

    An American flag made of industrial hemp grown in Kentucky by U.S. military veterans will be flown over the U.S. Capitol for the first time on Veterans Day, according to a press release from organizers of the event.

    The event is in support of federal legislation that would restore the industrial hemp industry in America.

    The 2014 farm bill granted states limited permission to allow cultivation of industrial hemp for agricultural research or pilot projects. Kentucky Senator and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was among the legislators who supported the measure.

    “Hemp was a crop that built our nation,” said Mike Lewis, a U.S. veteran and Kentucky hemp farmer who directs the Growing Warriors Project. The project grew the hemp used to make the flag.

    “Betsy Ross’ first American flag was made of hemp. We have flags made in China now. That’s almost sacrilegious,” Lewis said. He served in the “Commander in Chiefs Guard” of the 3rd U.S. Infantry from 1992 to 1995.

    Twenty-seven U.S. states have enacted or are considering laws to allow industrial hemp cultivation or are petitioning the federal government to declassify industrial hemp as a drug.  The proposed federal legislation would remove industrial hemp from the controlled substance list.

    Joe Schroeder with Freedom of Seed and Feed said industrial hemp could be a big help to America’s small farmers.  “If a hemp industry is to thrive in America again and provide the stability for so many communities that tobacco once did, it has to start with the stability of the small farmer,” Schroeder said.

    Hemp advocates say the fibrous plant can be used as raw material in clothing, carpet, beauty products, paper, and even as building material, insulation, and clutch linings.

    About 30 countries allow cultivation of industrial hemp, according to a 2015 Congressional Research Service report. These nations produced about 380 million tons of hemp in 2011. The U.S. imported $37 million in hemp products in 2014, according to the report.

    Al Jazeera America reports that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s last record of a hemp crop was in the 1950s. The plant was grown to make rope during World War II. Its production peaked in 1943 when 150 million pounds were harvested from 146,200 acres.

    Hemp is related to the plant that produces marijuana but contains negligible amounts of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Political observers say the effort to change U.S. law on hemp is part of a larger rethinking of cannabis laws.

    An opponent of marijuana legalization told Al Jazeera last year he doubted that a change in the U.S. industrial hemp laws would have much impact on the marijuana debate.

    “On the one hand, I think it’s part of a larger agenda to normalize marijuana by a few,” said Kevin Sabet, director of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a national alliance that opposes pot legalization. “On the other hand, will it have any difference at the end of the day? I would be highly skeptical of that.”

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  • Kentucky Farmers Ready for Growth of Hemp Industry

    By Janet Patton | November 4, 2015

    Tucked away off a narrow country road in Clark County, Kentucky, in the middle of a farm, 27 acres of hemp grew all summer. Now, the plants will be harvested and processed.

    Kentucky, hailed as a leader by industrial hemp advocates, has grown the hemp. Now the state is working on growing the industry.

    “In two years, we’ve come a long way,” said Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, who is now running for Congress. “We’ve proven first of all that it’s not a drug, which was very important for the opposition to realize. And we’ve proven it’s economically viable, or there wouldn’t be 22 companies that have made an investment in the state. … What we’re doing now is working with the companies that want to go to the next step to commercialize the product. “

    The plants in Winchester are part of the 100 acres of hemp – high in cannabidiol and low in tetrahydrocannabinol (the high-inducing chemical in marijuana) – grown this year for GenCanna, which moved from Canada to Kentucky to be in the heart of the hemp revolution. It deliberately chose to come to Kentucky over other states, including Colorado, because of the agricultural resources and the climate, both meteorological and political.

    “We have been in this industry for many years, and we are setting a new bar in Kentucky,” GenCanna CEO Matty Mangone- Miranda said. “Kentucky’s kept the focus on industrial hemp” rather than cloud the issue with other forms of cannabis cultivation, as Colorado has permitted.

    Mangone-Miranda, who estimates that hemp could become a billion-dollar industry, said his group is in hemp for the long run.

    “The industry is likely to have a bubble, then stabilize with a market of diversified products,” he said, citing potential uses in sports drinks, nutritional products, supplements and more.

    GenCanna has invested more than $5 million in Kentucky, according to company officials, although it has yet to see any revenue. That will come once the company is able to deliver a stable source of low-THC/high-CBD hemp.

    “The only way to have hemp become an agricultural commodity is to grow lots of it and see what happens,” said Steve Bean, GenCanna’s chief operating officer.

    Coming to Kentucky had other benefits, too. Many farmers were eager to get into the crop, which decades ago proliferated in the Bluegrass; hundreds applied to be part of pilot projects to grow hemp. The crop still can legally be grown only in affiliation with the state Department of Agriculture and entities that sign detailed memos of understanding.

    Kentucky also has resources that in the past were used for tobacco that have converted well to hemp cultivation.

    In fact, GenCanna’s headquarters is now in part of a former Philip Morris office building stuffed with former labs. The place was practically abandoned as the cigarette maker began retreating from Central Kentucky.

    And next door is a processing center in a former tobacco seed plant, where GenCanna built a system to turn the chopped-up hemp plants into a sort of dried powder to sell as a nutritional supplement.

    The Shell Farm and Greenhouses in Lancaster is turning its fields away from tobacco, growing 157,000 hemp plants on 40 acres outdoors and 3,500 plants in a greenhouse.

    “And we’ll be growing it indoors all winter,” Giles Shell said. Shell’s greenhouses once raised flowers; now he’s working on hemp genetics.

    “There’s no seed crop, so we have to take cuttings to get the plants in the field. So I’m selecting genetics, for a hardier plant – bigger, fuller,” Shell said. “We’ve got a problem with variegation or chimera, so I trying to select away from it.”

    Next year, Shell intends to grow even more hemp.

    “We’re going to quit raising our tobacco crop, and if we do any flowers, it will be downsized,” Shell said. “Last year, we raised 120 acres of tobacco. This year, we dropped to 80. Next year, we will drop to none. There’s not a market any more for tobacco and not enough money once you factor in labor and chemical costs.”

    Both the offices and the processing center are shared with Atalo Holdings, another hemp entrepreneur company, this one formed by Andy Graves and other Kentuckians working on crushing hemp seed for oil and other fiber production. Graves also grew the 27 acres of hemp for GenCanna.

    Other groups, including the Stanley Brothers of Charlotte’s Web CBD oil fame, also are pursuing the hemp’s potential.

    Kentucky could be on the cusp of a green revolution – a hemp boom that could go in myriad directions or spiral into a bubble of speculation.

    “It could,” Comer acknowledged. But, assuming that sometime in the next two years, Congress makes it legal for anyone to grow hemp, he said Kentucky should be well-positioned, with a jump-start on the infrastructure.

    “We get requests every day for companies that want to start processing hemp. I worry that some may not have the credibility of some of the others, and that’s why it’s taking longer to certify, to get more background info,” Comer said. “We’re not picking winners and losers, but those that have credibility. Our reputations are on the line here, too.”

    GenCanna has more contracts with farmers than any other company at this point, Comer said. It’s the only one in the cannabidiol business with signed contracts with national chains to buy their hemp product, he said.

    “GenCanna is the real deal,” he said. “And they’ve given me assurances everyone will be paid, and all the farmers are happy.”

    The Shell family, which has a three-year contract with GenCanna, certainly is now.

    “We were very leery – I was the most reserved in my family of starting to do this,” Giles Shell said. “But … I felt like we were the best route to help commercialize this crop. Demand is really high, and supply isn’t there. Basic economics will tell you that’s profit.

    “We’ve got a year ahead of everybody else that’s going to get into the game.”

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