Hemp Industries Association D.C. Wrap-Up

by G Rob Moseley

Rob Moseley, Original Kentucky Hemp Commission member, world traveler, and animal lover!

Rob Moseley, Original Kentucky Hemp Commission member, world traveler and animal lover!

For the Kentucky hemp industry to prosper on the scale that many of us on the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission envision, it’s imperative that we learn –and share- as much information as we can about existing markets, technologies, and products the world over. The 2013 Hemp Industries Association conference in Washington, DC, was an excellent confluence of industrial hemp experts ranging from farmers, industrialists, entrepreneurs, activists, and academics from all over the USA and the world.

From an American standpoint, Colorado farmer Ryan Loflin took center stage. Just this year, he planted and harvested the first ‘real’ hemp crop in the United States in over 60 years for all the world to see. The Feds left him alone. That’s a big deal for Kentucky because we recently passed legislation to move forward in developing our hemp industries once the federal government steps out of the way like they did in Colorado. Mr Loflin is looking forward to growing his second hemp crop in 2014. It was nice to get to meet him and thank him for having the fortitude to take the lead. He proved that it can be done – now.

Oh Canada! Other than one small plot in southeastern Colorado, the growing side of the North American hemp industry is exclusively Canadian. Kevin Greenwood, founder of Manitoba Hemp, spoke of the challenges and opportunities of being one of Canada’s largest hemp seed oil businesses. Certainly from his perspective, he can see the untapped opportunities for his farming counterparts south of the border. After all, 88% of Canadian hemp products are exported to the USA and 67% of all Canadian hemp exports are seed related. The most commonly used seed in Canada are the CRS1 and CFX2 Finola seed varieties and THC content is certified at the seed level. Canada grew 52,495 acres of hemp in 2012, up from just 8,050 in 2008. Interestingly, there are no approved pesticides or herbicides for hemp in Canada, making it a truly organic crop. Needless to say, with seed dominating Canadian hemp sales, having a strong hemp food industry is important to the Canucks. To do its part, the Canadian military went so far as to do the research necessary to debunk the myth that eating hemp foods will cause false positive drug tests. The Canadians are doing a good job of learning what needs to be learned to make hemp a successful crop to grow, harvest, and manufacture. Their knowledge will pay off for American farmers and industrialists in the future.

Perhaps the most dynamic hemp business in the world is located in Capetown, South Africa. Owned by a man named Tony Budden and in its 17th year of operation, Hemporium is a worldwide leader in hemp manufacturing and innovation. It started out as a hemp retail business, selling hemp clothing, food, and body products and has since morphed into the world’s premier hemp construction business. Along the way, the company petitioned the government to become the first hemp growers in South Africa. Mr Budden is currently in the middle of a government approved 3 year test plot and so far the results have been very impressive.

The need for low income housing in the urban centers of South Africa is staggering, with far too many people living in rickety tin shacks. Budden decided that he could make a difference in the lives of his fellow South Africans by building low income housing using a hemp based, non toxic, concrete called ‘Hempcrete’. The materials -hemp fiber and lyme- are cheap and plentiful (at least where hemp is grown) and easy to mix into concrete. The concrete is light and easily formed into molds that are then crafted into construction materials for houses. From the farm to the factory to your future front door, hemp housing is an incredible opportunity not only in South Africa but here in the United States and all over the world. Mr Budden has also shown that small scale decortication is effective, that massive industrial upgrades are not initially necessary to begin hemp construction operations. Controlled by the Department of Health in South Africa, there are ongoing hemp trial plots of 5 different varieties of low THC (less that 1%) in S.A., including at least one hermaphrodite variety. Thus far, the most promising in S.A. are of the (French) Futura and Felina seed varieties. Expect a Kentucky contingent to travel to South Africa to observe operations there in the not-too-distant future.

The Hemp Industries Association had an excellent conference, in no small part because of its President, Anndrea Herrman. I met Anndrea the night before the conference and she told me she was a Professor at Oregon State University. I asked her what she taught and she said “Industrial Hemp”. I found that to be very interesting (even if I was a little skeptical), but when she gave her hour long presentation toward the end of the conference, it quickly became apparent that she was one of -if not THE- most knowledgeable person on industrial hemp at the conference. She was an absolute wealth of knowledge. Anndrea explained the Canadian regulatory system and many of the more important things any hemp farmer will need to know from planting seed, to harvest, to moving the crop to the factory. Canada’s approved THC level is anything below .03% and its licenses are issued for two years. Canadian farmers can only use the fiber and the seed; the leaves and root systems are to be left on the farm plot to melt back into the soil, revitalizing it. To ensure that the seed varieties are government standard, all seed bins must be locked and all volunteer plants must be destroyed post harvest. The average growth period is between 90-120 days (depending on whether you’re farming for fiber or seed). The optimal time of year to plant seed is May/early June. Hemp should be on a four year crop rotation.

Hemp is a very hardy crop but it’s not invincible. Too much nitrogen in the soil puts stress on hemp. To avoid excessive nitrogen levels, farmers need to know not to rotate their hemp crop with certan crops like alfalfa, soy, potatoes, or barley because these crops add nitrogen to the soil. Hemp seeds will not germinate if planted after a fall rye crop. Crops located near animal manure are susceptible to developing E Coli and Salmonella (obviously not good for a food crop). Hemp can handle drought better than waterlogged conditions. Excessive water can cause weeds such as wild oats, buckwheat, and volunteer wheat to stress the hemp crop. Pests to look out for include the Bertha army worm, grasshoppers, painted lady butterflies, and, especially, European corn bores. Hemp can take a killing frost but it’s imperative that farmers harvest within 4-7 days after the frost. Be sure to keep in mind that all this research is coming from Canada. We’ll have a lot to learn here in Kentucky.

Anndrea’s knowledge of industrial hemp is vast and, ultimately, ironic. She learned what she knows thanks to an almost $80,000 grant the Canadian Government allocated to her to study the crop from top to bottom – and she definitely did. The ironic thing is this – Anndrea is from Missouri. She’s an American being funded to do hemp research by the Canadians! I suppose we can take solace in knowing that she’ll be able to implement her knowledge in the USA once this crop is de-criminalized here. If you’d like to learn more -or actually take- her hemp course (and subsequently know more than anyone you know about hemp), you can go here: http://ecampus.oregonstate.edu/soc/ecatalog/ecoursedetail.htm?subject=WSE&coursenumber=266&termcode=201303.

Kentucky hemp expert and Hemp Commission member Craig Lee (right)

Kentucky hemp expert and Hemp Commission member Craig Lee (right)

Lastly, being from Kentucky at a hemp conference has its advantages. Hemp activists from all around the USA and the world want to know all about what’s going on here. I attended the conference with Craig Lee. He is a world renound expert on industrial hemp and whenever he spoke, everyone listened. Craig’s passion for hemp is unmatched and it shows. Driving back to Kentucky through the mountains of West Virginia, Craig received a phone call from a reporter who just wanted to speak to someone -anyone- from Kentucky. We really are leading the way. There’s been seed put in the ground in Colorado with no fed interference. We passed HB 50, setting up the rules and regulations necessary to grow this crop again in Kentucky for the first time in almost 70 years. We are ready to go.

The 2013 Hemp Industries Association was a terrific event. Here’s hoping that next year, we’re talking about hemp being grown in Kentucky!

G Rob Moseley
Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission

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