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An Early Mover In The Industry Seeks Helpful Answers For Hemp Farmers

In the short while since last December’s passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, the market has started to make dramatic shifts. Cannabis companies like Canopy Growth Corp. (NYSE: CGC) have decided to go all-in on hemp, and existing hemp producers have begun to ramp up their production capacities.

How has the hemp industry adjusted to its newly minted legal status? The Hemp Business Journal caught up with Joe Hickey, Atalo Holdings, Inc.’s founder and director of corporate relations, to inquire.

Atalo Holdings is one of Kentucky’s largest hemp producers. In late 2018, the company announced a partnership with GenCanna Global Inc. (with which the company shares a location) whereby the company would help GenCanna scale its hemp production operations in exchange for a strategic investment.

Hickey said Atalo Holdings has been inundated with questions from customers since the Farm Bill was signed into law. “The phones just won’t quit ringing. I probably have 15 to 20 calls that I haven’t been able to return from yesterday alone.”

Hickey added that in order to meet growing demand for hemp, Atalo Holdings has had to dramatically increase its production capacity. Last year, before the Farm Bill’s passage, the company had roughly 60 farmers in its grower group that cultivated about 700 acres of hemp. For the 2019 growing season, however, the company is looking to increase its grower group to between 250 and 300 farmers, seeking to cultivate between 8,000 to 12,000 acres.

Most of the farmers Atalo Holdings aims to hire are former tobacco farmers who have struggled in recent years due to falling demand for that crop. Despite the pivot toward hemp, Hickey says that most of the farmers have expressed little reluctance in making the transition.

“These guys were tobacco farmers,” Hickey said. “They know how to work in a regulated industry.”

For the most part, Hickey is optimistic about the future of hemp as an agricultural product, but noted two issues on the horizon which could pose difficulties.

Testing Troubles

Hickey’s first concern regards the lack of uniform testing standards. Under the new law, hemp producers are required to submit their crops for testing by a certified laboratory concerning potency and THC concentration. Yet, the law lacks concrete details, instead leaving the testing standards to be decided by respective states.

Hickey warns that the lack of uniformity can lead to inconsistent lab results and increased inefficiencies along the supply chain.

“There’s no protocol in place where every lab is using the same testing techniques,” he explained. “We send out tests and end up getting differences in lab results that are as high as 25% [because] no one is doing it the exact same way.”

Supply-Side Blues

More than the testing issues, Hickey worries about oversupply. Since most of the regulatory legwork has been left to individual states, no caps exist on how much hemp can be cultivated per licensed grower. In states where farmers are required to secure sales contracts before their crops can be grown, it is not a problem. Yet, faced with states allowing no cultivation limits (such as Kentucky), the risks of over-saturating the market become unavoidable.

“You’re just building it up for failure,” says Hickey. “It’s a brand-new market, it’s a brand-new crop, and to go out there and just say ‘Hey, anybody do what you want with it!’ is ludicrous.”

Hickey fears that a lack of safeguards against overproduction could have disastrous results. Too much hemp on the immature market would lead to prices bottoming out, essentially short-circuiting the economic solutions which politicians and advocates have touted the hemp industry to provide.

Nevertheless, Hickey remains hopeful and confident that the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the respective states themselves shall prove capable of nurturing the opportunities represented by the reformed hemp industry.

Advanced Extraction Systems Inc. Unveils the Largest CO2 Supercritical Fluid Extraction System for the Global Hemp & Cannabis Industries

CHARLOTTETOWN, Jan. 24, 2019 /PRNewswire/ – Industry pioneer and trailblazer, Advanced Extraction Systems Inc. (AESI) is pleased to announce their latest innovation, the highest throughput CO2 extraction system for the Global cannabis and hemp markets.  

AESI has announced they have designed and engineered a 2X1000L, expandable to 4X1000L, supercritical CO2 fluid extraction system capable of processing approximately 4,500kg of dried biomass per day which translates to over 1.6 Million kilograms per annum. Actual yield is based on initial biomass potency. 

David Campbell, AESI’s Co-Founder & COO states, “Keeping up with our customers aggressive growth plans has to be at the forefront of our research and development goals.  We design our equipment to be modular and expandable to scale up with our customers future capacity requirements.”  Nick Desroches, Engineering Manager for AESI confirms, “Coriolis mass-flow meters are standard equipment on every system in our impressive and growing product line.”  He continues by stating, “Our newest 2X1000L system demonstrates a ground-breaking 100kg/minute flow-rate which is verified by the Coriolis mass-flow meter.” 

Mr. Campbell continues, “We are very excited to see the Hemp Industry opening up after the passing of the 2019 Farm Bill in the United States.  To date, an industry wide concern for Licensed Producers has been sourcing industrial scale CO2 extraction equipment with the ability to process tons of biomass. Our latest development is the perfect solution with impressive throughput numbers that will help ensure producers can grow their businesses to new heights.”

In November 2018, AESI won the Emerging Business Award from the Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce after demonstrating remarkable growth, innovation, and industry leadership.  AESI continues to be a pioneer in this emerging industry as their latest development will assist Licensed Producers in meeting demand for oil and CBD related products.

Advanced Extraction Systems Inc. designs, engineers and fabricates supercritical fluid CO2 extraction systems with a specific focus in the medical/recreational marijuana and hemp industries. AESI has assembled a skilled management team and a world-class scientific advisory group with over 75 years of experience in supercritical fluid design and processes.  AESI offers the cleanest, most advanced CO2 extraction processes that are leading edge due to the companies ongoing internal focus on research and development. AESI CO2 extraction systems are unique in design, efficiency, and ease of operation. Specifically, AESI systems can be differentiated from the competition in 6 key technical areas; better pump reliability, superior flow rates, superior fractionation, more phase management control, cGMP recipe development, and scalability for future growth.

View original content to download multimedia:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/advanced-extraction-systems-inc-unveils-the-largest-co2-supercritical-fluid-extraction-system-for-the-global-hemp–cannabis-industries-300783656.html

SOURCE Advanced Extraction Systems

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Pennsylvania takes steps to allow commercial hemp production

Pennsylvania is asking the federal government to approve its state plan to regulate industrial hemp growers and has given conditional approval to applicants to start growing it commercially.

The state Department of Agriculture said Wednesday it approved 84 permit applications and that the applicants have until Feb. 1 to pay a fee and sign an agreement.

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The federal government last year legalized the production of industrial hemp, a commodity that’s generally been barred because it is related to marijuana, even though it contains little of that drug’s key psychoactive ingredient, THC.

The federal government had approved a pilot program in the 2014 farm bill to research hemp under state regulation. Pennsylvania’s state plan ultimately would require all growers to register and obtain permits through the state Department of Agriculture.

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Is hemp Wyoming’s next emerging industry? Some legislators think so.

CHEYENNE — Right now, Kentucky is the nation’s largest producer of hemp.

But while the Bluegrass State’s business climate is ideal for hemp, its actual climate is not. It’s a cool weather crop, growing best in regions with short days and dry, slightly alkaline soils: conditions that can be found in Wyoming.

Several Wyoming lawmakers believe the Cowboy State could eventually beat out Kentucky as the ideal place to grow industrial hemp: a fibrous and strong variety of the Cannabis sativa plant that some believe could be the future of American agriculture. The global market for industrial hemp, according to a report by business consulting firm Grand View Research, was estimated at $3.9 billion in 2017 and, over the coming decades, is expected to grow significantly thanks to provisions in the federal Farm Bill passed in 2018, which removed industrial hemp’s status as a controlled substance.

Rep. Bunky Loucks, R-Casper, sees an opportunity.

On Thursday, the House Agriculture Committee will be meeting to discuss a new bill, House Bill 171, that Loucks is sponsoring with a bipartisan group of 23 lawmakers. The legislation, in accordance with the new Farm Bill, creates a state-level regulatory framework for local producers to grow industrial grade hemp.

Rep. Eric Barlow, R-Gillette, is co-sponsoring the bill. He said the bill could mark the beginning of a new “made in Wyoming” brand for the state at a time where most hemp products marketed in the United States actually originate outside of the country.

“We get to open a new chapter in Wyoming,” he said. “It’s a big step for economic opportunity for the agricultural community, and then we can talk about the related products with that.”

Hemp framework

The effort to build a framework for hemp actually began in the 2017 general session with House Bill 230. That bill came about after two agriculture students at the University of Wyoming reached out to Loucks, wanting to research hemp’s use as a forage for livestock. Several farmers Loucks knew from elsewhere said they couldn’t make a profit anymore, because the worlds they worked in – wheat, barley – were already crowded and the prices, set.

The state’s growers needed access to a niche market, Loucks said, that was compatible with Wyoming’s climate.

As it turned out, hemp was the perfect crop; one that grew well in Wyoming and offered a means to diversify the state’s agricultural sector in an organic manner while also putting farmers and ranchers in the driver’s seat.

“For a lot of commodity crops, if you’re a farmer, you’re a price taker, not a price setter, unless you’ve carved out some niche market,” said Hunt. “This opens up another door for example, for ranchers, so you’re not having to completely convert over to a farming operation, which would be a huge shift and a major cost.”

However, the 2017 bill was written off of much more stringent requirements for growing hemp, and access to that niche market remained exclusive as hemp remained on the Schedule I controlled substance list along with drugs like heroin and hemp’s psychoactive cousin, marijuana.

In short, leaving hemp on the Schedule I list was like considering something like kombucha – which has trace amounts of alcohol but anyone can buy – on the same scale as beer or wine.

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“The marijuana that you buy to get stoned on is 25 to 35 percent THC,” said Loucks. “You could smoke this stuff (hemp) until your throat is sore, but all it’s going to do is make you sick. This is a message we want to be sent.”

If passed, any farmer can spend $500 to apply for a state license to begin to grow hemp. If the license is granted, the farmer must adhere to the producer’s standards set by federal law – including remaining below a certain THC threshold and using a specific “clone” of a hemp seed that maintains the genetics of a certified plant.

However, Hunt said, the regulations in the bill are lenient enough that if a farmer’s plant does test above the legal threshold, the plant will not have to be destroyed. Instead, he said, it could be bailed up or ground into feed for cattle.

“There’s options,” said Barlow. “We don’t have to go medieval on it and burn it.”

The State Department of Agriculture, which will oversee the program, will likely need to hire or contract out for personnel to enforce these restrictions, Barlow said. However, the standards they enforce would be much less restrictive than the current law under the bill.

Though the immediate economic benefit of the program is currently unclear, the bill’s sponsors believe that the potential market for hemp in Wyoming has swaths of untapped potential. By becoming an early adopter, Loucks said, the state stands poised to put itself in a more dominant position as the industry evolves.

“Without this legislation, we put our farmers at a competitive disadvantage,” said Senate Minority Leader Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie, another co-sponsor. “The only way we can meaningfully engage is if we do take control, we accept primacy, and we regulate. That will make it easier for our producers to engage meaningfully in the market. We know that other states will just proceed and move ahead.”

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Pa. plans to open industrial hemp program to commercial growers

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Alyssa Collins with Penn State Extension shows a hemp plant that grew after the main experiment was harvested. Under guidelines from the state Department of Agriculture, any plants that spring up outside the parameters of the research period would have to be destroyed. (Photo: Rachel McDevitt/WITF)

(Harrisburg) —  Pennsylvania’s Agriculture Department is opening up its hemp program, pending approval from the federal government.

The commonwealth has run a pilot program for industrial hemp over the past two years, but it was only open to entities growing the crop for research.

Shannon Powers, press secretary for the Department of Agriculture, said those who want to grow industrial hemp commercially can now apply for a permit.

“And there’s more incentive to do so now,” Powers said. “Growers are not taking on 100 percent of the risk, like they were before. They’re now eligible for crop insurance, for example.”

The latest move comes after the 2018 federal Farm Bill separated hemp from its cousin marijuana, by removing hemp from the controlled substances list.

Powers said the crop will still be regulated.

“So it’s not a free for all, anybody can grow hemp anywhere, under any conditions. There are still concerns that require controlling the growth of hemp,” Powers said. 

For example, hemp crops will need to be tested for THC, the chemical that causes a high. Too much, and the crop has to be destroyed.

Powers says they hope to create a sustainable industry for hemp in Pennsylvania that could help farmers diversify their incomes.

But first, there needs to be more research and development of a supply chain for buying and selling hemp products.

State opens door for hemp farming

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HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania took a big step toward expanding the production of hemp as a farm product Tuesday, announcing rules to allow commercial growers to raise the product.

Hemp had long been banned due to its association with marijuana even though industrial hemp lacks the chemical compounds that make marijuana users high.

Proponents say there are thousands of uses for the product. Among the many possibilities, hemp fibers can be used for textiles and clothes, according to the Pennsylvania Hemp Industry Council. Hemp pulp is used for fiberboard, insulation and animal bedding. Hempseed oil is used for salad oil, paints and varnishes, soap and shampoo.

“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,” Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said in a statement about the new rules.

The strategy was unveiled in the wake of the 2018 Farm Bill, which ended the federal ban on growing hemp as a farm product. The Pennsylvania move will get rid of limits on how many acres of hemp a farm can produce. Pennsylvania is just the second state to notify the federal government of its updated plan for allowing hemp production.

“The changes just made by the Department of Agriculture are tremendous,” said Erica McBride Stark, executive director of the Pennsylvania Hemp Industry Council, a trade group representing growers.

Under the state’s old plan, hemp growing was limited to products for use in research.

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. Additionally, there will not be a cap on the number of applications accepted for 2019.

The state doesn’t plan to reveal the identities of the 84 growers approved for hemp production until Feb. 1 when their contracts have been signed, said Shannon Powers, an agriculture department spokeswoman.

She provided a list of counties in which those new hemp growers are located. They include: two from Cambria County; one from Lawrence County and one from Snyder County.

The 84 approved applications will be finalized first; additional applications will be reviewed and processed on a first come, first serve basis.

While the Farm Bill ended the federal ban, growing rules are set by each state, Stark said. As a result, only Pennsylvania and Kentucky have submitted plans to the federal government explaining how commercial growing of hemp will be regulated.

Forty-one states have passed legislation relating to hemp production, Stark said. Many of them limit that production to the kind of research program Pennsylvania had before this week’s rule change. Ohio and New Jersey are among the states that have no state laws allowing for hemp production, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Stark said that while industry advocates tout many uses for hemp, the industry is so new, it’s not clear how quickly markets will be in place to buy hemp grown by farmers.

As a result, she’s been telling farmers that if they want to begin growing hemp, they should start small. That way, they learn to deal with the crop so that when there is demand for the product, they will be prepared to ratchet up production, she said.

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Pennsylvania re-opens application process to grow industrial hemp this year

Pennsylvania farmers interested in growing industrial hemp this year have a new opportunity to pursue that.

The state agriculture department announced Tuesday that it is re-opening the application process for growing hemp in Pennsylvania this year and lifting a cap that had been set at 100 acres per applicant. 

The department is also accepting applications for growing hemp commercially. For the past two years, Pennsylvania’s program has allowed only hemp grown for research purposes, and the initial application process — which started before and ended shortly after the new federal law loosening restrictions on hemp passed — was also just for research.

The CBD boom: Popularity of hemp product swells in Lancaster; here's what you should know

Eighty-four initial applicants were granted conditional approval, according to the department, and those will be finalized first, with new ones reviewed and processed on a first-come, first-served basis.

PA follows Kentucky

The department reported being the second state after Kentucky to submit a plan to the U.S. Department of Agriculture under the new federal law. It plans to make industrial hemp subject to the Controlled Plant and Noxious Weed Committee, which would require all growers to register and obtain permits through the department, as well as providing for enforcement for any violation of permit conditions.

Seven of the eighty-four permits given conditional approval were for Lancaster County, according to the department, which did not provide further information on them. In neighboring counties, the totals were 10 in Berks; 10 in Chester; one in Dauphin; one in Lebanon; and one in York.

$600 application fee

Costs include a $600 administrative fee per application, which rises for those seeking more than five locations. Applicants must not have had a drug-related felony conviction in the last 10 years, and will be required to submit to an FBI background check.

Proximity is another consideration.

“Because industrial hemp pollen could potentially contaminate both medical marijuana crops and other industrial hemp plantings,” the department said, it “will not approve planting hemp crops within three miles of an approved medical marijuana growing facility and does not recommend planting within three miles of a planting for CBD or certified seed. Growers should be aware that doing such could lead to legal challenges from existing growers.”

“Pennsylvania’s research program puts our growers ahead of the game — they can pursue new opportunities armed with practical knowledge missing from the 80 years hemp has been against federal law,” department spokeswoman Shannon Powers said in an email.

“Now producers will be able to pursue financial backing, and invest without taking on all of the risk themselves, since they will be eligible for crop insurance and investors are stepping up to the plate. There are still challenges to address, but we have a significant head start.”

Local farmers interested

Two local agriculture experts also said in email that they’re hearing interest from farmers.

“Ever since the Farm Bill passed, I have been receiving calls from interested growers who missed the application deadline because they were just late to learning about the crop or were unaware of the permitting process,” wrote Alyssa A. Collins, director of Penn State University’s research center in Rapho Township. 

She also wrote that permitting much more hemp to be grown will help to attract fiber and seed processors too Pennsylvania.

“Having processors to sell to will make it worthwhile for certain growers to ‘jump into the pool,’ where they may have held back before. This is absolutely critical in establishing PA as a player in this new industry since shipping the crop to out-of-state processing facilities will be cost-prohibited,” she wrote.

“We will still need some intrepid entrepreneur to take the plunge and build a processing plant here to jump start the industry. Or, perhaps the state legislature might vote to provide incentive funding, like New York has done.”

Processors and marketers

Jeffrey Graybill, an education with Penn State Extension, said he agrees that processors and marketers will be needed for many potential products.

“On the other hand,” he wrote, “growing hemp for CBD extraction appears to be more of a hands on, specialty crop grown in a similar manner to tobacco. This is the end use for which I am getting the most calls and from smaller farmers who are interested in trying a few acres.”

Investors, processors and marketers will be needed for that market too, he said,  but he highly recommends that farmers have a contract and know the market before putting any seeds in the ground.

“I do not think that farmer speculators are a good idea,” he wrote.

A 2015 federal report found that hemp is used in more than 25,000 products worldwide, including automotive interiors, textiles, paper, foods, beverages and nutritional supplements.


PREVIOUS REPORTING ON HEMP

New U.S. Farm Bill doesn't mean just anyone can go out & start growing industrial hemp
Industrial hemp will probably grow in Lancaster County again next year
Here again: 6 things to know as hemp fields return to Lancaster County
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Hemp and marijuana come from the same plant, but only one will get you high

  • In December 2018, President Trump signed the Farm Bill, which legalizes hemp and classifies it as an agricultural product in the United States
  • Hemp comes from cannabis sativa, the same plant marijuana comes from, Jeff Chen, director of UCLA’s Cannabis Research Initiative, told INSIDER
  • Hemp contains very little tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), so it can’t get you high like marijuana.

In December 2018, President Trump signed the Farm Bill, which legalizes hemp and classifies it as an agricultural product in the United States. And because hemp comes from cannabis sativa, the same plant marijuana comes from, more people are wondering about the differences between the two substances.

Besides coming from the same plant, hemp and marijuana have very little in common. “Hemp is the non-drug usage of that plant, while marijuana is the drug use,” Jeff Chen, director of UCLA’s Cannabis Research Initiative, told INSIDER.

Here are the other key differences between hemp and marijuana.

Hemp and marijuana come from the same plant, but only hemp is legal nationwide

Hemp and marijuana may come from the same source, but in the United States, laws regarding their use are quite different. Marijuana, for example, is still considered a schedule 1 drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), meaning it has “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” This means marijuana, in both its recreational and medicinal forms, is not legal for use throughout the country.

Hemp, which can be used to make food and clothing, is now considered an agricultural product in the United States.
Thomson Reuters

Hemp, however, is now legal nationwide thanks to the passing of the Farm Bill. In fact, hemp is now considered an agricultural product, whereas marijuana is still considered a drug, Business Insider previously reported.

Cannabis is considered hemp if it contains less than 3% THC

Hemp’s new status as a legal substance has a lot to do with the fact it contains very little tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, Chen told INSIDER. Usually, hemp contains less than 3% THC, so it can’t get you high like marijuana, which can contain around 20% THC.

Read more: On the heels of hemp legalization, regulators have fired a ‘warning shot’ to the $1 billion CBD industry

In fact, the THC percentage in cannabis plants is used to determine whether it is called hemp or marijuana. “If no part of the cannabis plant goes over 3% THC, we will call it hemp,” Chen explained. “As long as it fits this test, it is an agricultural product just like tomatoes.”

A cannabis plant with less than 3% THC is considered hemp.
REUTERS/Nir Elias

Hemp and cannabis also have physical differences, according to Dr. Bomi Joseph, the founder of Peak Health Center and creator of Phyto Farmacy. “In the wild, marijuana grows from eight to 10 feet tall and is very unkempt, like a bush,” he told INSIDER. Hemp, on the other hand, has a “tidier look” and grows between six and eight feet tall.

And industrial marijuana, the kind that is grown in dispensaries in the United States, is in a league of its own due to the US’s genetic growing process. “It’s a mutant species, Joseph told INSIDER. “It has huge flowers that droop over and smells like a skunk, which naturally occurring cannabis does not.”

Traditionally, hemp has been used to make clothes and other products

Besides appearance and THC-based, hemp and marijuana have differing uses. Hemp, for instance, is used to make clothing, supplements, and even food, like hemp milk, according to Joseph.

Marijuana, however, is used as a recreational or medical drug, due to its psychoactive nature. Some strains of marijuana, for instance, are said to alleviate stress, anxiety, and chronic pain, INSIDER previously reported, but more research into its uses and effectiveness still has to be done.

Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.

Industrial hemp taking root in New York

Morrisville, N.Y. — The industrial hemp market is taking root and starting to grow in not just Central New York, but across the state as farmers see a potential booming crop.

The 2018 Farm Bill removed industrial hemp from the list of controlled substances and is allowing New York farmers to grow it — under guidelines.

On Jan. 22, the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Madison County invited local farmers from the area to sit down with local experts for a round-table discussion to answer their questions about growing industrial hemp. With the possibility of new markets in Central New York, the crowd of more than 75 people had several farmers with pens and notebooks ready to take notes.

Industrial hemp has many uses, from textiles and biofuel to insulation and even fuel for 3D printers. One of the other uses being researched is cannabidiol or CBD oil. It doesn’t contain THC and according to the Mayo Clinic, the oil is being studied as a treatment for a wide range of conditions, from Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, anxiety and more. New York State Agriculture and Markets estimates more than 25,000 produces can be produced from industrial hemp.

Morrisville State College Professor Jen Gilbert Jenkins said industrial hemp presents new opportunities for farmers and while it might not be the silver bullet to save failing farms, it will be another crop in the rotation with a potentially large market.

Timothy Sweeney, policy analyst for the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, said after an open application period for hemp growers and processors for the month of December, the NYSDA received 348 applications for hemp growers, with more than 3/4 related to CBD production.

While people have been registering as growers or processors and getting prepared for the 2018 Farm Bill to go into effect, Sweeney said farmers still have to operate under the 2014 Farm Bill until the United States Department of Agriculture establishes a program for the 2018 bill.

“The way the law is written, the USDA has to come up with regulations to implement the Farm Bill and the Industrial Hemp Program,” Sweeney said. “They are tasked with doing that as expeditiously as possible. In government speak, that’s God knows how long. One year after they have established their program, the 2014 program will subset. Until then, we operate under the 2014 Farm Bill parameter.”

Under the new law, the state will have to submit a plan to the USDA on how they will run the Industrial Hemp Program.

“Once we know what the USDA is expecting from us, we’ll know how to develop a state program, submit it and they’ll approve it,” Sweeney said. “Thing is though, ever since the 2018 Farm Bill has been signed, the USDA hasn’t been to work.” Thanks to the partial government shutdown, workers across numerous government offices have been furloughed and in the USDA’s case, delaying the implementation of the Industrial Hemp Program.

And even when the program goes into effect, not just anyone can grow industrial hemp — it needs to be regulated, Sweeney said.

Industrial hemp comes from the cannabis sativa plant, the same plant as marijuana. However, industrial hemp is required to have a THC level less than .3 percent. Anything higher than that is considered marijuana, Sweeney said. People who want to grow industrial hemp have to register with New York state.

“It’s clear from the language of the 2018 Farm Bill,” Sweeney said. “Everyone still has to register with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. We need to know where you’re growing it, we have to report that to the federal government and we have to come out and sample your plants, send them to our laboratory and make sure they’re .3 THC or less.”

Hemp is a flexible crop, Larry Smart said. As a professor of horticulture at Cornell University, Smart has worked with the hemp research program at Cornell for the last two years.

“You can grow hemp as a field crop for grain or fiber,” Smart said. “For CBD, most people are growing it as a horticultural crop in raised beds with plastic and drip irrigation. If you’re a vegetable grower and you’re growing tomatoes, you probably have that equipment. If you’re a grain farmer and doing small grains, you probably have a combine that can work.”

The only issue, Smart warned, is that not all combines work with hemp. When harvesting hemp with a combine, long hemp fibers can get caught in the moving parts and force farmers to clear it out repeatedly.

Among questions on the minds of attendees was just how much it cost to grow per acre and what the profit margin could be.

“CBD hemp is worth one-tenth of marijuana,” Smart said. “Grain hemp is worth one-tenth of that and fiber hemp is worth one-tenth of that. It’s a low value crop that needs to be grown locally because of the trucking costs.”

In the CBD market, Smart said producers are fairly close to the vest. But the current market prices are between $3 to $5 per pound of dried floral material per percent CBD.

Smart said if a CBD industrial hemp farmer was growing a crop with 10 percent CBD, the farmer could be getting around $40 per pound.

But starting the CBD farm is another story. Most CBD farmers, Smart said, plant a density of about 2,000 plants per acre.

“You average around a pound per plant,” Smart said. “But there is quite a bit of input cost.”

CBD oil comes from the flowering plant and requires female seeds. Feminized seeds cost around $1 per seed, meaning the 2,000 plants for 1 acre can cost a farmer $2,000.

“You want to make sure you buy high quality, feminized seed because normal seed is 50/50 male and female,” Smart said. “Growing for CBD, you want all female and no male. When female plants get pollinated, their CBD level goes down two to three fold.”

On top of that, no herbicides currently exist on the market for industrial hemp, leaving it up to the farmer. Fortunately, things like raised beds and plastic sheets can help with weed control and are worth the cost, he said.

Harvest is done by hand and it needs to be brought to a drying facility with a lot of air movement and dehumidifiers, adding another capital investment. And once dried, the floral material needs to be removed by hand.

“There are machines you can buy that can run the stems through, but they don’t work very well right now,” Smart said. “I can’t recommend them. In our own experience, you do it by hand.”

At the end of the day, farmers could be looking at around $20,000 input cost per acre and Smart recommends having a crew of 20 to 30 people for harvesting.

In the field crop side of industrial hemp, Jenkins said the input cost is about the same for any other crop.

“You’re going to plant it at about 25 pounds of pure live seed per acre. If you’re growing for fiber, you’re doubling your seeding rate,” Jenkins said. “On the low end, seeds cost about $3.50 a pound. High end is $9, but the majority of what I’ve bought this year is in the $4 range.”

Jenkins said when growing for fiber, it’s very similar to the hay industry. 

The clean, dry grain can be sold for around 65 cents per pound, Jenkins said, or $1.20 for organic. And on average, when harvesting for grain, farmers could be looking at anywhere from to 800 to 1,000 pounds per acre.

Fungus and water was another concern voiced by attendees. New York state is no stranger to rain and Smart agreed hard rains can be detrimental to industrial hemp crops.

“Hemp is very intolerant to flooding,” Smart said.

“You can’t say that strongly enough,” Jenkins added.

Smart said one time the program hosted a field day with 120 guests, three inches of rain fell. The standing water in low ends of the field killed the plants within a week.

As for fungus, Smart said there are a number of molds that threaten hemp and can be harmful to other plants as well. 

“One of the most threatening diseases to industrial hemp is scleretinia, or white mold,” Smart said. “It’s a very broad host range fungus that’s very damaging and it can go to all beans and sunflowers. So if you’re in rotation with any of those crops, I’d be very hesitant. We haven’t done this type of rotation research yet.”

At the end of the day, farmers left the round-table with something new and something to think about.

Dan Sullivan drove all the way from Richfield in Otsego County to represent the Otsego Farmland Protection Implementation Committee.

“I came out for two reasons,” Sullivan said. “The first is personal. I have some cropland I might want to dedicate to hemp production and I want to be a conduit of information for the county farmers that might be interested.”

Sullivan said he’s learned a lot at the round table about yield and licensing of hemp. He thinks the grain production of hemp might be the easier path for himself and with his farm certified organic, Sullivan said he’d able to produce organic hemp grain.

“I think that hemp is going to be a good alternative to those in dairy production who feel the need economically to get something of a cash crop,” Sullivan said. “I know we’re in the early stages, but I think there’s potential for Mohawk Valley and Central New York farmers to turn some sort of revenue with this cultivation.”

New York farmers would have to compete with markets in Canada and overseas, since those hemp farms already have a head start and a foothold in the American market, but Smart thinks New York farmers can compete.

“The top cultivar across five sites averaged 1,400 pounds of clean, dry grain per acre,” Smart aid. “The top yield of our top cultivar was 2,400 pounds per acre. The average in Canada is about 800 pounds to the acre. Can we be competitive with Canadian growers? I think we can be.”

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