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Orange County incubator targets promising hemp compound

WARWICK – Orange County could become a state leader in producing and researching a medically promising hemp chemical, if a local economic development agency has its way.

The Orange County Industrial Development Agency’s Accelerator recently announced plans to create a new $2.1 million branch focused on fostering the production of the hemp compound cannabidiol, or CBD, at the former state prison site in the Town of Warwick.

The Orange County IDA is a nonprofit public benefit corporation that considers tax breaks to stimulate local development. It also operates the Accelerator, which incubates new businesses and speeds up the growth of nascent firms.

The CBD Accelerator will put up $550,000 for the Warwick project. The remaining $1.55 million will come from state development funds distributed years ago to the Warwick Valley Local Development Corporation.

The nonprofit WVLDC is charged with redeveloping the former Mid-Hudson Correctional Facility. The WVLDC and Warwick own different parts of the site and work together to transform it.

The municipal and business leaders behind the WVLDC have been on a hot streak with the prison property, lately, facilitating more than $40 million, including a $36 million medical marijuana manufacturing facility under construction by Citivia Medical, and proposals for a revamped sports academy and a new brewery.

The CBD Accelerator’s leaders hope to secure municipal approvals and sign business and research partners in 2019. But they’re not yet able to project an opening date for a Warwick operation that would go inside the Manor House, the warden’s old office, and in the prison’s former barn.

“I just couldn’t be more pleased” about the CBD Accelerator, said Warwick Supervisor Michael Sweeton, who serves on the WVLDC board. “It’s a perfect fit, not only for providing opportunities to entrepreneurs but for our existing growers.”

Though Warwick’s future Accelerator is the smallest of the projects planned for the prison site, it may have the most lucrative long-term potential.

CBD comes from hemp or cannabis, the same plant as marijuana, but hemp contains 0.3 percent or less of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, pot’s high-producing chemical. CBD has shown potential for treating pain, inflammation, psychiatric conditions, alcohol and opiate use disorders and other maladies. But determining its effectiveness, safety and dosing will require more research.

With Congress legalizing hemp in December, federal regulators writing hemp industry rules, and New York lawmakers poised to follow, America’s hemp-CBD market could grow to $2.5 billion or more in 2022 from $820 million in 2017, according to New Frontier Data, a research firm.

“We are getting in on the ground floor of creating a whole CBD industry with a full spectrum of jobs creating everything from food to nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals, body and health care products,” said Vincent Cozzolino, managing director of the Orange County IDA and its Accelerator.

New Yorkers are already so eager to try CBD that illegal tinctures, foods and other products have become common statewide in recent months, despite the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s prohibition.

Orange County’s CBD Accelerator will process hemp into CBD-rich oil and teach farmers and entrepreneurs about the hemp and CBD industries, Cozzolino said. The Accelerator’s leaders are on the brink of inking a deal with the New York Hemp Alliance to run the site, said Ed McCauley, the Alliance’s co-founder.

The Accelerator also is currently negotiating with an undisclosed local university to run a CBD Accelerator Research lab at Touro’s Middletown medical school. That’s where the Accelerator already runs another branch nurturing medical device makers. A third Accelerator fosters textile producers in Newburgh and New Windsor.

McCauley, 60, of Campbell Hall, was a Bergen County, N.J., home builder until 2016 when he met former Warwick flower farmer Adam Kurtz, 41, through a mutual friend.

The pair first teamed to launch the New York Hemp Alliance’s sister company, Oregon Fusion LLC. That Oregon firm has fast-developed a reputation for pure, potent, affordable CBD products, with its Fusion CBD line, while teaching others about hemp.

In recent years, McCauley and Kurtz have cultivated 60 acres of hemp in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and another 15 acres in Warwick, while employing 18 employees. They say they’re allowed to produce CBD under a 2014 federal Farm Bill provision permitting limited hemp growth for research.

But, like other CBD makers, the pair are operating in a legal gray area. Federal and state regulators must create hemp rules, following its recent legalization, and the FDA, which tightly regulates CBD as a drug, hasn’t decided to allow its general use.

Warwick’s CBD Accelerator is “an opportunity to revitalize a New York farming industry that’s hurting,” McCauley said. “But we’re all on hold for now as to how much we can scale the business” till regulators act.

daxelrod@th-record.com

Experts: State should facilitate hemp industry

Recreational marijuana legalization may make more headlines, but hemp could become one of New York’s biggest crops if state lawmakers facilitate the industry, leading hemp experts say.

Last month, Congress set the stage for states to create their own hemp industries, with the 2018 farm bill’s passage.

The law reclassifies hemp as a crop, not a controlled substance like a street drug, making the U.S. Department of Agriculture the plant’s primary regulator.

Hemp is cannabis, the same plant as marijuana, but hemp contains 0.3 percent or less of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the primary cannabis chemical that produces a high.

New York has already been a leader among states in pushing the bounds of limited legal hemp cultivation, under a 2014 U.S. farm bill provision allowing states to authorize hemp research and experimentation.

But competition will soon abound, with the overall U.S. hemp market projected to at least triple to $2.5 billion by 2022. That estimate, from cannabis market researcher New Frontier Data, includes $1.3 billion in sales from cannabidiol, or CBD, alone.

The non-psychoactive chemical has shown medicinal promise in some studies for pain, inflammation, psychiatric conditions and alcohol and opiate use disorders and many other ailments.

Versatile crop

More than 80 years of restrictive laws have squelched American hemp production. But demand is robust – the U.S. imports the most hemp in the world – given the crop’s versatility.

Hemp’s long and growing list of uses includes nutrition, body care, paper, textiles, building materials, fuel, bioplastics, bio-composites, industrial sealants and coatings, biomedicine, electrical energy storage and nanotechnologies.

“We really only are limited by our imagination and initiative” with hemp’s potential, said Erica McBride Stark, executive director of the National Hemp Association, an industry group. “If all the pieces come together, hemp could explode and become one of the biggest crops in the country.”

The new federal farm bill gives state agriculture departments primary authority for hemp oversight. But the USDA is currently crafting minimum hemp regulatory requirements, and the agency must sign off on state regulations to ensure they dovetail with federal standards.

CBD is another matter. It’s regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which still bans its use except for in one FDA-approved epilepsy drug, though unauthorized CBD products have exploded across America of late.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb recently expressed an openness to potentially allowing CBD and other cannabis-derived compounds besides THC in foods and supplements.

Already the ball may be rolling for strong hemp and CBD industries in New York. New York ranked fifth among states, with 2,000 experimental hemp acres under cultivation as of 2017.

But to stay out front, state legislators will need to pass one or more laws that promote processing, manufacturing, storing, transporting and growing hemp, said Joy Beckerman, president of the board for the Hemp Industries Association, a trade group.

“We’re asking farmers to grow a hemp crop for which there’s very little infrastructure, and we’re asking investors to invest in infrastructure for which there’s very little crop,” Beckerman said.

Encouraging hemp

Regulated correctly, hemp could become the seventh- to 10th-most cultivated crop in the state, said Larry Smart, director of Cornell University’s School of Integrative Plant Science.

Smart thinks 8,000 to 10,000 hemp acres could be under cultivation in New York by 2022, up from perhaps 2,000 to 2,500 acres in 2018. Around 8,000 to 10,000 acres would rank hemp somewhere between cabbage, sweet corn, potatoes and tomatoes, which are respectively seventh through 10th in acreage.

Land devoted to the state’s struggling dairy industry takes up the most space in New York, followed by grain-corn, hay, cattle, apples and flowers.

“Hemp will offer a viable alternative to farmers, but it’s going to be a major switch for dairy growers in particular,” Smart said. “It’s not an easy transition to switch to hemp from dairy.”

To promote hemp farming and a full industry, experts said that state lawmakers must:

award grants for hemp research, cultivation, production, including $5 million that’s long been promised for processors;

avoid tight regulations, such as limiting the production of certain hemp products, the types of stores and settings in which hemp and CBD can be sold, and requiring excessive labeling;

let businesses from other states grow, produce and sell hemp and CBD in New York; and don’t limit hemp and CBD produced in other states from being sold;

amend laws as necessary, including clearly defining hemp by specifying a THC level of 0.3 percent or less, to decriminalize and differentiate hemp as a crop compared with illicit drugs.

“Coming out of prohibition, we’re way behind other industrialized countries with hemp,” said attorney Shawn Hauser of Vicente Sederberg, of Denver, a leading hemp and marijuana law firm. But, “I’m optimistic that we’re going to do it right.”

daxelrod@th-record.com

A California marijuana company is spinning off its hemp and CBD business and is talking to bankers about taking it public

Vertical, a California-based cannabis company, is spinning off its hemp and CBD business which it’s aiming to take public on a major US stock exchange.

The new entity, Vertical Wellness, will be headed up by the aptly-named Smoke Wallin. He’ll serve as the CEO of the hemp side, while Todd Kaplan, Vertical’s founder, will remain the CEO of the company’s marijuana business.

Vertical Wellness will cultivate hemp and produce branded CBD products for the US market, while Vertical will focus exclusively on California, where marijuana containing THC is legal.

Wallin, who was previously the CEO of a number of alcohol brands before taking a role as president of Vertical last year, said the split will likely happen in mid-February. Existing shareholders — those who bought prior to the split date — will get stakes in both Vertical Wellness and Vertical.

The company is now looking to raise money from institutional backers to lay the groundwork for going public, Wallin told Business Insider in an interview.

Read more: Aurora Cannabis is gearing up to break into the $1.6 billion CBD industry in the US

Vertical Wellness is targeting a listing on NASDAQ — Wallin was business school classmates at Vanderbilt with Nasdaq CEO Adena Friedman — but the company isn’t set on whether it will pursue a direct listing like Slack, or engage bankers and go through a more traditional IPO.

Wallin said his team is also thinking about pursuing a reverse-merger, though that’s his least preferred route.

Skye Gould/Business Insider

Since the federal government passed the Farm Bill in December of last year, hemp — a variety of the cannabis plant that contains minuscule amounts of THC, the compound that gets you high — has been legal throughout the US, though THC-containing plants remain prohibited by the federal government.

Prior to the Farm Bill passing, major US exchanges like the NASDAQ and the NYSE wouldn’t allow cannabis companies that sell products in the US to list, hemp or otherwise.

Hemp is a source of CBD, or cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive compound that has shown up in everything from upscale gummies to infused water. The CBD market could hit $22 billion worldwide by 2022, according to the industry research firm Brightfield Group.

Read more: Marijuana could be the biggest growth opportunity for struggling beverage-makers as millennials ditch beer for pot

Some institutions have signaled that the Farm Bill provides enough legal footing to invest directly in companies that don’t touch THC-containing marijuana plants, said Wallin.

When he met with hedge funds to raise money for Vertical last summer, Wallin said there was a ton of interest but the investors in those funds — usually pension funds or insurance companies — wouldn’t touch any deal with a whiff of federal illegality.

“There were a lot of what I’d call ‘pass the hat’ deals, where partners would invest their own money or pool together to invest outside of their fund,” said Wallin.

Now, “the company isn’t tainted by the THC side of things,” said Wallin. “So if you’re an institution that wouldn’t previously hold Vertical stock, now there’s a path to doing so.”

Having real institutional backing is critical to a company like Vertical Wellness that’s trying to grow quickly. After all, growing hemp is a capital-intensive process, and developing enough quality supply to meet the skyrocketing demand for CBD will be challenging.

“I want to spend my time working on the business and not raising money,” said Wallin. “All the Marriotts, Hiltons, Nestles, and Cokes of the world want a piece of CBD.”

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In a surprise move, Pennsylvania is throwing the door wide open for industrial hemp production

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(TNS) — In a surprising turn, Pennsylvania is throwing the door wide open for industrial hemp production — something the state, or the United States, for that matter, has not seen since before World War II.

State Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said Tuesday that Pennsylvania submitted a plan to the U.S. Department of Agriculture that allows for the full commercial production of industrial hemp.

Hemp has a slew of potential applications, including beauty products, clothing, bioplastics for car parts and more, building materials and housing insulation, energy storage devices for electronics, 3D printing filament, pest resistance and weed suppression, and food oils and rope.

The move follows the December passage of the federal farm bill, which removed industrial hemp — cannabis plants with little of the chemical that gets you high — from regulation under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

When the law was passed, the state Agriculture Department had a research-based plan for hemp underway, and with no federal rules in place on how legalization would work, said it was too late to change course for 2019. But on Tuesday, Redding said Pennsylvania will reopen the 2019 program to include applications for commercial growing operations.

The state said its program will also remove growing caps of 100 acres for current and new applicants.

“Pennsylvania’s story is shaped by agriculture and the products that help grow the commonwealth, and industrial hemp presents an exciting new chapter in that story,” Redding said in a statement.

The farm bill, signed by President Donald Trump on Dec. 20, allows the interstate commerce of hemp products and hemp cultivation and processing for any use.

The new law also allows the extraction of cannabidiol, also known as CBD, a nonintoxicating chemical compound that is claimed to have medicinal properties.

The bill marked a big step from changes enacted in 2014 that gave states the authority to establish agricultural research pilot programs.

But the bill’s vague language left unclear the permitted commercial scope of state pilot programs, and it did not change the Controlled Substances Act to exempt hemp varieties of cannabis.

Pennsylvania launched a pilot program in 2016. As of Tuesday, it had conditionally approved 84 permit applications, pending a Feb. 1 deadline for paying a program fee and signing the agreement, according to department spokeswoman Shannon Powers. The list of growers is expected to be made public upon completion.

Under Pennsylvania’s proposed plan, industrial hemp would be regulated under the Controlled Plant and Noxious Weed Committee, which in turn would make it a controlled plant.

Such a label would require all growers to obtain permits and be subject to enforcement. But there would be no limit on the number of applicants.

Hemp supporters praised Redding’s decision.

“It’s one more step, but in this case it’s a big step for Pennsylvania farmers who are certainly seeking alternatives in new rotational crops,” said Geoff Whaling, president of the Pennsylvania Hemp Industrial Council.

Whaling, who is also chairman of the National Hemp Association, said Pennsylvania’s changes will give farmers a chance to earn more revenue.

Industrial hemp was a cash crop in Pennsylvania and elsewhere in the 18th and 19th centuries. Hemp production was curtailed after World War II amid a marijuana scare.

Hemp cultivation became explicitly illegal in 1970, when President Richard Nixon signed the Controlled Substances Act, which classified all varieties of the Cannabis sativa plant as a Schedule 1 drug.

Hemp processing is the crucial missing link in creating efficient supply chains that, on one end, entice farmers to grow the crop, and on the other end, compel established industries to give hemp-based technologies a try.

So supply-chain challenges remain, Whaling and Powers said. That includes such aspects as how to harvest hemp on a large scale and determining what its main pests are.

Whaling said the Pennsylvania hemp group is planning to make a “substantial announcement” soon about a regional hemp industrial park.

Whaling also said Tuesday’s announcement is a “win-win” for the hemp industry, “and we couldn’t be more thankful to the department.”

Pennsylvania joins Kentucky as the only states to submit a program to the USDA, Powers said.

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Health benefits of CBD hemp oil explained

About 80 people turned out Saturday to learn about the health benefits of CBD hemp oil.

Two seminars, hosted by the House of Nutrition, a downtown natural health store, attracted people of all ages hoping to find ways to ease pain and provide relief from depression and other ailments.

The hemp oil seminars were part of a trio of health-product informational sessions that took place Saturday at the O Coworking Space, 5819 Sixth Ave.

A morning session, presented by Jessica Petersburg, featured a demonstration of how to make kombucha tea, a probiotic drink said to have several health benefits.

Luke Schlag, a representative from Hemp Rescue, explained how his product is a full-spectrum variety infused with coconut oil, noting it has anti-inflammatory properties.

CBD hemp oil is extracted from the hemp plant that also contains THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Hemp oil, however, is high in CBD, or cannabidiol, and low in THC. It also contains a host of vitamins and minerals.

During his presentation, Schlag talked about the many benefits of the oil and how it is extracted from the hemp plant.

He explained the three different types of hemp oil and addressed concerns over its use.

As a representative passed out sample vials of the oil, Schlag explained how varying potency of CBD oil can be used to treat different types of ailments.

He said hemp oil can reduce pain, soothe anxiety, fight chronic diseases and address sleep disorders. He said it also improves mental focus and improves recovery from exercise.

Additionally, according to a report, concentrated doses have been used to treat epilepsy.

While CBD oil has been highly touted as an effective treatment, Sclag cautioned that it can affect people differently depending upon the level of potency.

One man in the audience said his use of hemp oil has helped him reduce the number of medications he takes from 15 to one.

A woman told how it has helped her grandson, who suffers from high anxiety.

The House of Nutrition, 5824 Sixth Ave. now carries the Hemp Rescue brand in 250, 500, 1,000, 1,500 and 3,000 milligram dosages. Prices start at $34.50 for the 250 milligram bottle up to $249.50 for the 3,000 milligram bottle.

Co-owner Mark Wistar said the store carries teas and other products that are infused with CBD.

Farm Bill opens door for legal hemp growers

When Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell ceremoniously used a hemp pen to sign the Senate version of the 2018 Farm Bill in December, he promised an unencumbered path for the exploration of a new frontier.

Touting the economical merits of industrial hemp, McConnell said the legislation opened a new door for struggling farmers in his home state of Kentucky and around the country. And when signed into law last month, the Farm Bill made the growing, transport and production of industrial hemp legal, effectively removing it from the federally controlled substances list.

“I felt all along it was unfairly criminalized. It is the strongest natural fiber,” said Hartford Supervisor Dana Haff. “As far as permits and other regulations, there really shouldn’t be any bureaucracy. It should be the same as hay or soybeans.”

Haff said, when he drives around the town of Hartford, he looks at the potential of unfarmed meadows.

“A lot of these fields could be rejuvenated,” he said. “It would help struggling farmers to survive.”

In Washington County, at least a few dairy farmers are interested in growing industrial hemp, he said.

There is widespread enthusiasm for the bill’s passage and the possibilities for what has been projected to become a $1 billion industry. But a host of planting, growing, harvesting and security considerations, along with major law enforcement information gaps about what is now legal, pose complex challenges for new growers and processors.

“Not everyone is informed locally and statewide,” said Sarah Murphy, co-owner of Old Homestead Hemp in Hebron, referring to the gaps in understanding the new law. “It’s so new and this is the in-between time … We are riding on the edge until everyone catches up.”

Hemp vs. marijuana

Earlier this month, an industrial hemp transport team of two truckers and two security officials from Patriot Shield, a Colorado marijuana security company, was driving through the 3-1/2 square mile town of Pawhusky, Oklahoma, at about 3 a.m. Transporting 20,500 pounds of legally certified industrial hemp from a farm in Kentucky to a manufacturer in Colorado, the security team plotted a route that included a drive through Pawhusky.

Some states do not allow the transport of hemp through their state, said Tyler Dickinson, a co-owner of Patriot Shield, during a Wednesday night interview.

“We do our due diligence and plan the travel logistics,” Dickinson said, adding that they got the go-ahead from Oklahoma. “We were told if we drove through Texas or Kansas, we would get arrested.”

Here’s how Dickinson explained what happened:

After driving through a red light in Pawhusky, the transport team got pulled over by local police.

“He did drive through the red light, I’m not sure why. The driver told the officer they were moving industrial hemp,” Dickinson said. “My two business partners were arrested. We provided all sorts of paperwork, purchase order, contract, bills of lading, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture audit of the 60 boxes.”

According to Dickinson, local police said the paperwork looked suspicious and police were quickly joined by state and federal officials after a simple roadside test of the hemp tested positive for marijuana, still a Schedule I narcotic like heroin or methamphetamine.

While researchers and growers can often spot the differences, most people do not know the difference. It all looks and smells like marijuana.

Additionally, if police test the hemp with a simple roadside assessment, it will test positive as marijuana, because hemp has a small amount of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. The difference between being legal or illegal is in the amount of THC present in the plant.

Legal hemp must be 0.3 percent or less THC. Over this threshold, it is classified as marijuana.

In Pawhusky, the four men were arrested, jailed and charged with felony aggravated trafficking by the local district attorney, who first set bail at $1.5 million each.

“Our attorney was able to get it reduced to $40,000 each,” Dickinson said, adding that because of the federal government shutdown, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency will not test the truckload of industrial hemp. And so, the men wait for a March hearing. And if the hemp potency is not properly tested and they are convicted of the charges, they face a potential 15 years behind bars and a $500,000 fine.

According to Pawhusky Assistant District Attorney Michelle Keely, the load of hemp tested positive for THC three times, citing one microscopic test that she said delineates between hemp and marijuana, despite evidence to the contrary.

“It’s not a load of hemp, it’s marijuana,” Keely said in a phone interview Thursday afternoon.

When asked if the alleged hemp was potency-tested in the lab to determine whether it met federal guidelines for THC content, she said it had not been tested yet. If potency testing indicates the hemp is legal, Keely said, the charges will be dropped.

But for now, the nearly $500,000 load is rotting in Pawhusky while law enforcement officials stumble over whether it’s legal hemp or its illicit counterpart.

Local fields

Murphy and her sister, Iris Rogers, although not arrested, had a similar run-in with testing after two local men chopped down and stole 12 of their plants still growing in their field in Hebron this past growing season. In response to the call about the missing plants, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office tested the crop and, as in the Pawhusky incident, a roadside test came up positive for marijuana.

“That gave us a good opportunity to talk to the sheriff at length,” Murphy said. “He was not aware of the permitting.”

Hemp theft is not uncommon, said Dickinson, adding that “some have held people at gunpoint.”

Local men were arrested in the theft of plants from the Hebron farm and charged with felony grand larceny, Murphy said.

A season of growing

Last year, the sisters and Old Homestead Hemp received a state Department of Agriculture and Markets research permit to legally grow industrial hemp for the eventual manufacture of cannabidiol, better known as CBD oil, on their family’s farm.

There are currently 154 state-approved research partners with permits to grow hemp, with three in Washington County and three in Saratoga County. There are 29 approved hemp processors and 20 combined grower/processors statewide, with one in Saratoga County.

Permit applications for CBD-related crops are currently closed, but according to Chris Logue, director of the Agriculture and Markets Division of Plant Industry, New York is continuing to seek reliable research partners to conduct studies in food and fiber.

Murphy and Rogers decided to give it a go this past year with the help of a consultant, The Castetter Sustainability Group Inc., from Binghamton.

“They are farm-driven. They are farm-first,” said Rogers. “Nobody gets paid unless the crop is good. They are honest and supportive, and they are always there.”

Despite having few financial resources, the sisters found innovative ways to make the new crop work.

In their first year they planted 5,000 cherry blossom wine hemp seeds which were mostly cannabis sativa. This year, they are considering a hybrid with a small amount of cannabis indica to help with an earlier harvest.

Some of the biggest challenges they faced were pests, weeds, a good drying space, equipment, harvesting, shucking and time.

“It is so labor-intensive,” Murphy said about the hand-shucking process. “We are still brainstorming about what is the most efficient.”

This year they are switching to raised beds with plastic or mulch to control the weeds and a better drying space to control the mold.

At every turn, their innovative ideas kept them going, such as the time they needed to buy a water wheel transplanter.

“We started a Go Fund Me campaign to foster a hemp plant” said Murphy. Both sisters laughed, recounting the names donors gave their plant: “Audrey Hempburn, Dorothy Hempill.”

And now, with their first successful crop harvested and 2,200 pounds sold to a large manufacturer, the sisters said they no longer need an investor. They have enough capital to keep growing and learning.

“Washington County is a great place to do this. The soil around here is good, pretty rich in nutrients,” Rogers said.

Murphy said they’re excited about this year’s season.

“We want to encourage people who don’t have all the pieces,” they said. “On a low-scale project, it still grew, it still got harvested. Just get through your first year.”

Textile challenge

Even though there is international demand for woven textile hemp, no way to process it for spinning has been developed in the U.S., said Battenkill Fibers owner Mary Jeanne Packer during a visit to the Greenwich textile company.

“The hemp grown in Washington County is not suitable for woven textiles, it is being grown for seed and oil,” she said. “The stalk can be used in non-woven fabrics and insulation.”

Still, Packer said, her company is spinning hemp blended with wool.

“Our machines are designed to spin wool, not hemp. But we can spin up to a 75 percent hemp-wool blend,” she said.

That blended hemp is being sent all over the world and to designers in New York City.

Packer demonstrated where the processed hemp she currently buys from Europe joins the spinning process and gets blended with wool for local farms.

There are processors in the U.S. that can decorticate the hemp, breaking down the tough stalks and creating a rough, “Brillo-like” fabric that can be used in insulation or non-woven textiles like felt.

For hemp-woven textiles, there remains one unsolved piece: the processing that creates the softer strands that mills can blend with wool.

“We would love to be able to buy one of those machines,” Packer said. “There is nothing like that on a commercial scale in the U.S.; they are in the Ukraine, Belarus … To get a big machine to take hemp from the farmer’s field, the machine runs at a minimum from $400,000 to $500,000.”

Packer said she looked into buying a processing machine from a mill that was closing in Portugal, but the shipping was too expensive.

For now, Packer is buying hemp that is processed overseas into soft, long strands that her mill then prepares into a roving blend.

Currently working with a SUNY Morrisville researcher, Packer plans to travel to Poland with a bale of research textile hemp that will be processed there.

“I hope to go when it is processed to learn how to do it,” she said. “Hemp is very durable and it stabilizes the wool.”

As for growing hemp locally?

“Washington County is uniquely situated with our proximity to fashion in NYC,” Packer said. “Every week we are shipping yarn to a designer in the city.”

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Illinois public hearing scheduled on industrial hemp rules

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois officials have scheduled a public hearing on proposed regulations for industrial hemp production and processing.

The Illinois Department of Agriculture will have the hearing at 1 p.m. Feb. 5 at the department’s John R. Block Building.

People wishing to make comments must sign up beforehand. Registration begins at noon. Organizations should choose one representative to speak.

The proposed rules were published in December after a law allowing for hemp production was signed last summer. It allows individuals or corporations licensed through the Agriculture Department to cultivate hemp.

Written comments are also accepted by email, fax or letter through Feb. 11.

After approval of the rules, the Agriculture Department will begin accepting applications for industrial hemp licenses and registration.

State taking applications for hemp production

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ALYSSA A. COLLINS, PH.D. Shown is industrial hemp production from the Penn State Extension.

Potential producers of industrial hemp can get their feet in the door.

Applications are now being accepted for the reopened 2019 growing season of the product, according to the state Department of Agriculture.

“Growers in Schuylkill County can apply for this research, and we would see it grown here. I am aware of a few growers interested, but I do not know if anyone actually applied,” Tanner C. Delvalle, horticulture extension educator for Schuylkill and Berks counties, Penn State Extension in Pottsville, said Tuesday.

State Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding on Tuesday announced that the state has submitted its plan for industrial hemp to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and will reopen the 2019 program to include applications for commercial growing operations.

Industrial hemp and marijuana are different varieties of the same species of plant.

“Unlike marijuana, industrial hemp is grown mainly for fiber and seed and must maintain a much lower concentration of the psychoactive chemical tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, below the 0.3 percent legal threshold,” the state Department of Agriculture said in a news release.

New opportunity

Alyssa A. Collins, Ph.D., director of the Southeast Agricultural Research & Extension Center, and an assistant professor of plant pathology and environmental microbiology at Penn State University, said there is some evidence that hemp might be able to grow in soil that isn’t the best for most crops.

“If that’s the case, then areas of Pennsylvania like Schuylkill County, which haven’t been as active in agriculture as other areas of the state, may find that this crop is economical for them to grow in a way that others have not been,” Collins said. “This could open new opportunity for these farmers, even now when many in ag are struggling due to depressed dairy prices, trade wars and climate challenges.”

Collins is also the director of a Penn State research farm in Lancaster County that has been involved with growing hemp for research trials, according to Dwane L. Miller, agricultural extension educator for Penn State Extension, Pottsville.

Miller said he was unaware of a Schuylkill County farm raising industrial hemp, and directed inquiries about its production to Collins.

One of the things that the announcement now allows for is growth of unlimited acreage, and for commercial purposes instead of limiting it to research projects, according to Collins.

“With a much larger acreage permitted to be grown in the commonwealth, we can now attract fiber and seed processors to the state. Having processors to sell to will make it worthwhile for certain growers to ‘jump into the pool,’ where they may have been hesitating before,” she said.

While Collins hasn’t heard directly from any Schuylkill County growers, she regularly gets calls from people from throughout the state and country who are interested in starting the crop.

“Many are farmers of other crops, some are non-farmers who are exploring the possibility. All of these folks have really insightful questions about the crop, policy, processing, and market chain,” she said.

Tangles and weeds

Lessons learned on the Lancaster hemp plot are being shared.

“Our primary challenges reflect what I believe many farmers will struggle, or have struggled, with, namely weed management. There are no herbicide options for this crop yet, and so for farmers like us, who would like to avoid tilling to control weeds — so we can farm more sustainably — there are not good ways of suppressing weeds so that the hemp can outgrow them,” Collins said.

Another real dilemma is that producers don’t currently have efficient harvesting equipment for hemp.

“Farmers have been repurposing equipment used for other crops to harvest seed and fiber hemp varieties, but these machines are better suited to less-fibrous plants and tend to get tangled,” Collins said.

Producers also need to find a buyer for the crop. Hemp grown for fiber needs to be processed to break it down into usable fibers. Currently, there are no processing plants in Pennsylvania, and shipping a crop out of state is cost prohibitive, she said.

State approval

Redding said the passage and signing of the 2018 Farm Bill, particularly the language removing industrial hemp from regulation under the Controlled Substance Act and providing for commercial production of industrial hemp, are welcome changes that will benefit both Pennsylvania producers and consumers.

On Tuesday, the state Department of Agriculture approved 84 permit applications for commercial growing operations.

“Acreage caps — previously set at 100 acres — have been lifted for the 84 approved applicants and acreage will no longer be restricted under the new program,” the news release from the department states.

“Additionally, there will not be a cap on the number of applications accepted for 2019. The 84 approved applications will be finalized first; additional applications will be reviewed and processed on a first come, first serve basis.”

Applicants are required to submit fingerprints to the FBI to obtain a criminal history check, proof of which must be attached to the paperwork. The growing sites must be in Pennsylvania, and a single GPS point at the entrance to the growing locations must be included.

Application forms can be found at www.agriculture.pa.gov/Plants_Land_Water/industrial

_hemp.

For additional data on hemp production, visit https://extension

.psu.edu/industrial-hemp

-production.

Contact the writer: vterwilliger@republicanherald.com; 570-628-6007

Lowcountry Hemp Festival will celebrate the benefits of hemp and CBD on 4/20

click to enlarge An industrial hemp pilot program is underway on select farms in South Carolina - FLICKR USER EDUCATE

  • Flickr user educate
  • An industrial hemp pilot program is underway on select farms in South Carolina

On Sat. Apr. 20, the Barrel on James Island is partnering with the Lowcountry National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) for the first Lowcountry Hemp Festival.

Early last year, South Carolina joined 33 other states in having legal provisions for growing hemp, allowing 20 farmers to grow up to 20 acres to test the benefits of the crops for our environment, as well as the profit it could bring to the Lowcountry.

On Jan. 8 of this year, South Carolina legislature reconvened for its 2019-2020 session, with plans to bring up the issue of medical marijuana again.

“We realized the stigma around cannabis and CBD [cannabidiol] is the lack of knowledge on the subject,” said Kaylia Boshard of Lowcountry NORML. “A lot of folks still think hemp and CBD are illegal. So we really wanted to have a space where folks would feel safe asking questions and learning about the benefits of CBD.”

Partnering with Louis Miles, the owner and operator of CBD Carolinas, Boshard and Lowcountry NORML worked together to organize the Lowcountry Hemp Festival to spread awareness of hemp and CBD in an educational and safe way.

The event will be held at The Barrel (1859 Folly Rd.), featuring over 15 local vendors and companies, promoting and selling CBD products, jewelry, massage therapy, and all things organic and holistic. Rebel Taqueria will be onsite with their Cali-style street food, and music will be courtesy of Tomato Band and DJ Skitch. The event is free, but donations will be collected at the door, and 10 percent of The Barrel’s sales will be donated to Lowcountry NORML.

Details and updates can be found on their Facebook event page.

Lowcountry NORML is a non-profit organization dedicated to create an environment of education, awareness, and advocacy for the safe use of marijuana, including hemp and CBD, in South Carolina.

Lowcountry Hemp Festival

@ The Barrel Charleston

1859 Folly Road

James Island

Charleston, SC

When: Sat., April 20, 5-10 p.m.

Price: Free to attend

Festivals + Events and Wellness

Seminar looks at potential of hemp crop locally

Many New Yorkers are eager to enter the burgeoning hemp industry, but regulations and prohibitive costs pose challenges for the average upstate farmer looking to grow the crop, according to a seminar Friday in Delhi.

New York expanded its pilot hemp research program in 2017 to include farmers and businesses, and applications exploded last fall when the Department of Agriculture and Markets created a separate application for CBD-related research partners. However, those approved this year may not have time to plant by the summer.

There are more than 150 registered growers and processors, according to an Agriculture and Markets spokesperson, and approximately 3,500 acres of farmland were approved last year.

Infrastructure for processing both industrial hemp, which is used to produce a wide variety of industrial and consumer products, and Cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabis compound with therapeutic effects, is in development around the state.

Partners from one new venture, Grow Hemp New York of Windsor, spoke to curious farmers Friday in Delhi at the Delaware County Business Center about their successful first year of business. The county chamber of commerce invited owner Jeff Bump and partner Rick Pell to speak to about 30 farmers.

The men laid out their costs for producing more than five tons of hemp last year for CBD, which they sent out of state to process. They said each seed cost about a dollar, and the price to fully grow each plant was $8 to $10 dollars, including labor. Each plant turned a profit of about $35.

“We spent a lot of time doing things wrong this year and we’re still going to turn a profit,” Pell said, likening the blooming industry to the Wild West.

Pell advised the farmers not to start growing unless they have a plan and a market. Attendees included a recent college graduate interested in CBD as a pain therapy and hay farmers from Schoharie County.

The world’s largest cannabis company, Ontario-based Canopy Growth Corporation, announced this month it will spend up to $150 million to open a hemp processing operation in the Southern Tier. The company is expected to announce the location in the first half of the year.

The announcement is the first significant investment in a hemp processing center to follow the passage of the new federal Farm Bill passed late last year. The legislation removed hemp from the controlled substances list to clear the way for farming and processing of the industrial version of the plant. It also allows industrial hemp farmers to attain crop insurance.

One Madison County farmer who spoke with The Daily Star, Matt VanHeusen of Georgetown, said he chose not to grow last year because he was concerned about costs and how to harvest hemp. He also said the CBD processor he was planning to grow for did not stay in touch.

“My wife and I are getting close to time to retire, and we’re looking for something fairly easy” and profitable once established, said the firefighter and hobby farmer. He said he intends to grow hemp in the future for the grain and fiber industries.

Erin Jerome, staff writer, may be reached at ejerome@thedailystar.com or (607) 441-7221. Follow her at @DS_ErinJ on Twitter.

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