FDACS marks 1-year of Florida’s State Hemp Program, $370M economic impact


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — April 27 marks the one-year anniversary of Florida’s state hemp program, overseen by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

FDACS and its Office of Cannabis manages and regulates Florida’s hemp program and cannabis products, including CBD.

In its first year, hemp in Florida created an estimated $370 million economic impact, supported over 9,000 jobs, and generated over $17 million in federal, state, and local tax revenue, according to Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.

“Florida’s state hemp program is leading the way in creating great jobs, safe and useful products, and a bright future for this new industry. It’s a great crop for Florida’s farmers with the potential for over 25,000 uses including textiles, biocomposite building materials, biodegradable packaging products, and food and medicinal products like CBD,” said Commissioner Fried.

In 2021, FDACS will put increased emphasis on consumer outreach and education in multiple languages for diverse audiences, and today released a bilingual hemp education video in Spanish and English.

“In year two, we will increase multicultural public education and outreach on the benefits of hemp, and supporting hemp producers, processors, and retailers in meeting consumer needs and increasing demand,” Fried said. “We will also advance research and testing, ensuring Florida Hemp products meet the rigorous quality and safety standards that the law requires and consumers deserve. I’m proud of our department’s work on this new green economic driver, and I believe that Floridians will enjoy the benefits of this commodity for generations to come. The sky’s the limit for Florida Hemp and we’re very excited about year two.”

Since FDACS began accepting applications to grow industrial hemp on April 27, 2020, Florida has approved more than 800 hemp cultivation permits for farmers in 65 of Florida’s 67 counties, with more than 30,000 acres approved for planting.

After the 2018 Farm Bill removed prohibitions on industrial hemp in place since 1937, Commissioner Fried worked with the Florida Legislature in 2019 to pass historic state hemp program legislation.

In 2019, Fried appointed the state’s first-ever Cannabis Director and created the state’s first-ever Hemp Advisory Committee, and FDACS hosted five workshops and public hearings across Florida on state hemp rulemaking, worked ahead of the USDA to finalize rule development, and provided feedback to the USDA on its draft rules.

On April 16, 2020, the USDA approved Florida’s state hemp program, clearing the way for growers to begin cultivation on April 27, 2020.

More information about growing hemp in Florida may be found at the FDACS Office of Cannabis website.

Content from: https://www.wtxl.com/news/local-news/fdacs-marks-1-year-of-floridas-state-hemp-program-370m-economic-impact.

Utah State researchers debunk myths to find optimal hemp growth

Utah Hemp Cultivation

Logan – Ninety years ago, hemp researchers at Utah State University grew cannabis for rope and had no way to test the THC content in crops other than smoking it and monitoring the effects. Research halted in 1970 when then-President Richard Nixon signed the Controlled Substances Act.

Now that it’s legal to grow once more USU researchers are back at it — only this time, they’re using technology and testing to determine the optimal ways to grow the plant for high yield and cannabinoid content, and what that means for Utah growers.

“We do a lot of trying to nurture these plants as best we can,” said Mitch Westmoreland, the Ph.D. student running the lab at USU’s greenhouse. “But then we also go on the other side of things and see how much we can torture these plants without them dying. … One of the big questions that a lot of people have, especially in Utah, is how drought stress affects cannabinoid concentration.”

There are at least 66 different cannabinoids in cannabis flower, with THC and CBD being the most well-known. Where THC is the only known component to be psychoactive, CBD’s uses seem to be purely medicinal, with studies suggesting it reduces epileptic seizures and soothes a multitude of other health issues.

Cannabis plants that come in with more than 0.3% THC are referred to as marijuana, while hemp refers to those with low THC and higher CBD counts. Where there are only eight growers in the state licensed to farm medical-grade marijuana, there are roughly 12 farms in Cache Valley that received permits to grow hemp.

Most of USU’s funding comes from large-scale growing operations across the United States. Because it was illegal to grow cannabis in Utah for so long, a lot of the university’s preliminary testing is debunking claims related to growing the plant.

“All these people that have been growing it illegally, they didn’t study science in school, like biology and all the principles, so they make a lot of observations and a lot of bizarre conclusions,” said Bruce Bugbee, the USU professor over the project. “Like you need to plant at the full moon … and the world of cannabis is full of stuff like that.”

In January, he posted a video to YouTube debunking a claim that specific colors of light are needed to produce higher yield for harvest. It has since received more than 1 million views.

Another cannabis-growing claim is that the plant needs an exorbitant amount of phosphorus to produce more flower — the part of the plant that houses CBD, THC and cannabinoids. Not only did it prove ineffective in terms of yield, but Westmoreland said using less phosphorus can have a huge impact environmentally.

“The implications are huge just because phosphorus is a huge pollutant,” he said. “It’s polluting the lakes and the rivers, and people just dump it on in agriculture. Very rarely do you see phosphorus toxicity (in plants) so there’s really no harm to over-applying, at least to the farmer, but the downstream effects are huge.”

For example, high amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus in lakes and water sources can lead to increased algal bloom, which can then choke out other aquatic species like fish.

Similar to the indoor, controlled research, the cannabis old-wives’ tales have proven false in the outdoor fields helmed by Dr. Matt Yost, an assistant professor and the agroclimate specialist for USU Extension, and grad student Tina Sullivan. At least, those that have been tested.

“I really wanted to plant on the full moon, but we couldn’t swing that,” Yost said with a chuckle in a presentation for USU’s Remote Crop Field Day event on Wednesday.

While the indoor greenhouses can be tailored to control for nearly every aspect of the plant’s life, the outdoor research has seen a steeper learning curve.

Many farmers decided to try their hand at growing hemp for CBD after the Farm Bill legalizing hemp production passed in 2018. But like USU’s researchers, it was a new product and not all fields had a profitable outcome.

“We got approval to study it in the field in April, and we planted in May,” Yost said. “It was fast — like a lot of the farmers last year.”

Another problem outdoor growers are seeing is that hemp is “finicky,” Sullivan said. In addition to farmers’ only option for herbicides being pre-emergent — as hemp generally needs to be planted from cloned cultivars to exclude male plants from crops — it needs massive care.

“Labor has been the highest cost for us,” Yost said. “And a lot of farmers last year had a hard time finding people to help with labor.”

Market fluctuations have also come into play.

“Back when this was legalized, you know, two years ago, a year and a half ago, the price was around $20 a pound, so it was worth it for a lot of people to go into it,” Westmoreland said. “Since the market was saturated with growers across the nation growing for CBD, the price has gone down to about $5 a pound.”

Another struggle Utah growers encountered was a small market for production of CBD oil and other hemp products.

“A lot of growers are still sitting on that crop from last year,” Westmoreland said. “They haven’t been able to find a processor to take their biomass, and so they’re still sitting on it, either waiting to get a better price or just waiting for somebody to take it at all. So there’s sort of a mismatch between people who can actually buy the hemp flower and people who are producing it.”

Another grad student at USU is hoping to study the flower produced through Bugbee and Westmoreland’s research for CBD and THC degradation over time to see if that kind of behavior can be profitable for farmers who don’t immediately sell.

Content from: https://www.sltrib.com/news/nation-world/2020/08/03/utah-state-researchers/.

Tennessee Hemp Growers Get Another Year to Transition to Federal Program

NASHVILLE – Hemp growers in Tennessee will have more time to adjust to federal Domestic Hemp Program guidelines. The program was scheduled to take effect this year, but the United States Congress extended the current industrial hemp pilot program authorized under the 2014 Farm Bill through September 30, 2021.

Tennessee will continue to operate its hemp licensing and inspection programs under the 2014 Farm Bill.

“This extension will give hemp growers more time to transition to new program guidelines and to better understand federal expectations,” Commissioner Charlie Hatcher, D.V.M. said. “Tennessee was on the forefront in providing a framework for producers to grow hemp and we see hemp as an emerging opportunity for growers and processors. We will continue to support this expanding industry and are committed to contributing to its success.”

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s (TDA) 2021 hemp plan was approved by the USDA earlier this year, positioning the department to implement new federal standards. The delay allows TDA to fine-tune laboratory operations, inspection procedures, and sampling processes before transitioning to the federal program next year.

When the new federal standards go into effect next year, every hemp variety in every growing area must be tested for THC within 15 days of harvest rather than 30 days. Samples collected will be tested for total THC rather than delta-9 THC. Growers will be required to receive lot numbers from the USDA Farm Services Agency under the new program.

Tennessee has 1,800 hemp growers licensed to plant as much as 16,000 acres of hemp. TDA accepts applications to grow hemp year-round, with permits expiring June 30 of every year. For more information about hemp in Tennessee, visit www.tn.gov/agriculture/farms/hemp-industry.html

Content from: https://www.tn.gov/agriculture/news/2020/10/15/tennessee-hemp-growers-get-another-year-to-transition-to-federal-program.html.

Polis’ CHAMP Report provides roadmap for future of hemp in Colorado

Polis announces CHAMP hemp report

DENVER, Colo.  – Governor Jared Polis, in partnership with Colorado State University, Colorado Department of Agriculture, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Colorado Division of Regulatory Agencies, and Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, is pleased to announce today’s release of the Colorado Hemp Advancement and Management Plan (CHAMP) report.

Polis states, “Colorado is a clear national leader for industrial hemp, and the CHAMP report will serve as a key tool to further our leadership. We want Colorado to continue to be the best state for industrial hemp which will help our rural communities thrive. The report also identifies key initiatives that Colorado can share with other states to standardize the hemp industry across the country. I’m particularly proud that this project brought many voices to the table from across the state to combine their expertise and knowledge, and to hear from others in the sector about common pain points and opportunities.”

The CHAMP Initiative will be used as a blueprint for Colorado state and local agencies, in partnership with higher education and industry, to implement some of these large-scale initiatives to advance and manage this new industry. This includes promoting research and development in seed genetics and cultivation, developing and advocating increased industrial processing and uses, privatizing laboratory testing, and increasing access to financial and insurance resources.

Eighteen months in the making, the CHAMP report is the result of a rigorous and collaborative stakeholder-based initiative that brought together top subject matter experts from the hemp industry, higher education, and regulatory fields to explore important questions regarding the economic advancement and regulatory management of the hemp industry in Colorado. Stakeholders were part of guided discussions that provided important perspectives and recommendations on a number of critical issues at every stop on the hemp supply chain. Resulting in a comprehensive, informed roadmap on how to further advance Colorado’s hemp industry.

The CHAMP process has already begun to effect change beyond a local level. The 2018 farm bill essentially allowed for the legal cultivation of hemp under the regulatory authority of the United States Department of Agriculture. Based on numerous CHAMP discussions with stakeholders, Colorado provided written comments to the USDA that effectively changed the federal regulations to provide more appropriate and sensible oversight of this new emerging agricultural crop, including the allowance for the remediation of non-compliant plants into complaint plant biomass to help farmers mitigate against financial loss.

CSU’s College of Ag Sciences and Regional Economic Development Institute will continue to partner with USDA, CDA and various communities across the state to provide applied research, technical assistance, economic development guidance and education motivated by what was learned from the CHAMP project.

Content from: https://www.kjct8.com/2021/03/27/polis-champ-report-provides-roadmap-for-future-of-hemp-in-colorado/.

Vote Hemp releases 2020 Hemp Crop Report

2020 Hemp Crop ReportWashington, DC – Vote Hemp has released its 2020 Hemp Crop Report documenting the state regulated cultivation of hemp in the United States. Vote Hemp has been producing the Hemp Crop Report since 2016 and the 2020 growing season marks the first time that there has been a decrease in licenses and acreage. Going into the 2020 season, there were 49 states that had passed laws authorizing hemp farming and 46 of those have regulatory policies or plans to allow hemp to be grown.

Vote Hemp. contacted all 46 states to request data and received responses from 34 including top hemp markets of Colorado, Kentucky, Montana and Oregon as well as a number of newcomers. The 2020 report is being released at the NoCo Expo and via the Vote Hemp web site.

Hemp enters its second season in Wyoming

A hemp crop west of Powell was grown during the first season for the plant in the state. The harvest was late in the fall.

A hemp crop west of Powell was grown during the first season for the plant in the state. The harvest was late in the fall.

Powell, WY – Wyoming will be entering its second season in which the state is issuing licenses to hemp producers and processors. 

The crop is still highly regulated and remains in a niche market. That means there aren’t a lot of farmers trying it, and those that are endure a lot of trial and error. 

Mother’s Hemp Farms owner Dave Tenhulzen said he planted 144 acres of hemp at two sites last year: one near Deaver and another just outside of Powell. The approximately 30 acres that were harvested near Powell produced about 90 tons of raw hemp.

However, the larger field near Deaver was a total loss as it tested “hot,” as they say in hemp lingo — meaning it came in over the maximum 0.3% THC limit. THC is the primary psychoactive ingredient in the cannabis plant and when the compound is present in hemp in higher quantities, the crop is treated as if it is marijuana and must be destroyed.

Last year, 28% of the hemp samples that were collected from across the state and tested by the Wyoming Department of Agriculture came in too hot. Derek Grant, spokesman for the ag department, said that figure is just an estimate, as some indoor growers are still submitting their samples for testing. 

Wes Brown, ag program coordinator with the department, said the estimated number wasn’t too bad, all things considered.  

“For the first year, I thought it was pretty good,” Brown said during an online hemp workshop in January. 

In 2020, the state issued 28 licenses to grow hemp, which encompassed 1,058 acres of field production and 18,150 square feet of greenhouse production. 

From the field production, 873 acres were planted and 788 acres harvested. 

Jeremiah Vardiman, agriculture and horticulture extension educator for the University of Wyoming Extension, called last year’s outcomes a mixed bag. 

“It sounded for the most part that [the season] was fairly successful, across the state,” Vardiman said, “but it’s still pretty small scale.”

Vardiman agrees with Brown that the 28% fail rate on the state’s sample tests wasn’t too bad and demonstrates some potential to produce the crop within the limits the state requires, which follow those of the USDA. 

“There is some hope out there,” the educator said. 

Vardiman said the real driver of the hemp industry is going to be the markets, which are still trying to get a foothold. If the processor has a buyer for the product, then the producer will have a buyer for the produce. At that point, Vardiman said interest will grow.

“It’s going to take a while to develop and become solid,” he said. 

Vardiman added that the fiber processing, which would go into a variety of construction and textiles really has no market at this time, but food and CBD do have improving processing capacity. 

“We’ve made a step in that direction,” Vardiman said. 

He said producers who risked the uncharted hemp waters last season were testing varieties, which is important. Identifying the varieties that stay below the 0.3% THC threshold will make the farmers’ crops more successful. 

One question that remains is how much the market can bear and whether Wyoming can compete in that market. 

“That’s the driver for all crops. The reality of it, here in Wyoming, we’re at that mercy. And so if we can have a market to sell into, we have a successful crop venture,” Vardiman said. 

Grant said it’s too early to tell if the state will see a growth in applicants. Renewals are typically submitted in December — though they can come in at any time — but new applicants usually start submitting theirs in spring. 

It takes about a week or two for the paperwork to be processed, depending on the amount of documentation involved. The application process, Grant said, is the same this year as last. However, he said there could be changes at the USDA level, which would result in changes to Wyoming’s process.

Legalizing hemp flower could net big money; police say upholding laws would be impossible

Legalizing hemp flower could open the door to a new market for Hoosier farmers and bring millions of dollars in revenue to Indiana. But prosecutors and police are worried doing so would take away one of their crucial tools for enforcing the state’s marijuana laws.

Hemp and marijuana come from the same cannabis plant and differ only by their level of THC, the chemical that makes marijuana users high. If a cannabis plant has 0.3% THC or lower, it’s legally considered hemp. Any higher, it’s marijuana. Otherwise, the two plants look and smell exactly the same.

That’s a problem for police.

If hemp flower were legalized in Indiana, police say it would make it impossible for law enforcement officers to tell if the substance is legal or illegal, creating issues when it comes to plausible suspicion for drug arrests.

A quick roadside test that could help officers tell if a bud is marijuana or hemp was recently developed out of Purdue University, but it’s in its early stages, and prosecutors say it won’t hold up in court.

The Indiana State Police declined to comment to IndyStar about this issue, but a representative spoke on the subject during an Indiana House committee hearing last month.

“These laws cannot be taken away because at the current time they are crucially important in upholding our current criminal system,” he said. “We cannot differentiate (hemp) from marijuana. You take that away, you take away the one substantive tool we have today to uphold our marijuana laws.”

But legalizing hemp flower would not only be a boon for Hoosier farmers, those in the industry say, it would also put Indiana on the same playing field as at least 39 other states where it is already lawful.

Other hemp products are legal in Indiana, but hemp flower holds the highest concentration of cannabinoids used to make CBD, a non-psychoactive chemical in cannabis used for relieving pain, anxiety, insomnia and other health issues. Currently, the flower has to be processed into other products first, such as oil or gummies, to be sold.

“The flower is the most lucrative part of the plant. There is a strong demand for it,” said state Rep. Sean Eberhart, R-Shelbyville, who has filed House Bill 1224 to legalize hemp flower. “This bill will legalize it, and allow our farmers and retailers and our consumers to use and grow that product.”

Hemp flower is federally legal, and contains no higher percentages of THC than other hemp products do. When smoked, it provides fast delivery of CBD.

“Really, all we’re talking about is another delivery method of CBD to the body,” said Justin Swanson, president of the Midwest Hemp Council. “All we’re trying to do is open this market up to the farmers, to give them confidence to explore the market.”

Three bills that would legalize hemp flower were filed this year at the Indiana General Assembly, but only HB 1224 has gained traction. A committee voted in favor of the bill and it is now pending in the House.

‘We don’t need to be scared’

While hemp contains some levels of THC, it is unlikely to get you high. Hemp products are capped at 0.3% THC, while marijuana products range from 5% to 20%.

Even so, it was federally illegal to grow and use until former President Donald Trump signed the 2018 farm bill. In Indiana, a “sweet spot” for hemp growing because of the climate and soil, farmers were already growing hemp under a 2014 rule that allowed institutions to grow the crop for research.

A year later, however, Indiana lawmakers banned hemp flower.

That upset growers and others in the industry, who point out that hemp flower is the part of the plant with the most potential for farmers to make a profit.

“If the largest concentration of CBD is in a part of the plant that you’re not allowed to use, that’s certainly a barrier to the economics of growing it and producing it,” said Rep. Justin Moed, D-Indianapolis, a co-author of HB 1224.

Joe Linne, a former hemp farmer and owner of retailer Hoosier Hempster, said it frustrates him that although hemp flower is held to the same 0.3% THC standard as other hemp products, it is illegal to sell.

“How can you really take one part of the hemp plant and make it illegal?” said Linne, also a small business advisor for the Indiana Small Business Development Center. “We don’t need to be scared of something that’s already been out helping people and helping the economic growth of their state.”

Hemp flower is the easiest way for farmers to enter the hemp market with the least amount of overhead costs, Swanson said.

Currently, farmers have to sell their hemp crop to a processor to be converted into CBD oil. The associated costs mean they sometimes get around 50 cents per pound for that crop. On the other hand, selling hemp flower directly can earn a farmer as much as $250 per pound.

Adam Gilliatte, owner of hemp genetics company Half Moon Hemp, said Indiana’s ban on smokable hemp flower puts Hoosier farmers at a disadvantage compared to those in other states.

“We’re getting to the point where the farmers don’t want to grow, because they’re not going to make the money versus what they can make in Illinois or Michigan,” Gilliatte said. “We’ve essentially killed an industry that was once looked at as a next opportunity for a farmer.”

Even so, the hemp market is growing in Indiana.

In 2019, the Indiana Office of the State Chemist registered 5,300 acres in Indiana. Last year, thatjumped to almost 9,000. In the same time frame, the square footage of indoor growers grew from 500,000 to 1.7 million.

That growth shows potential for millions of dollars in revenue for the state, Linne said.

In his calculations as director of the hemp council’s economic task force, he predicts hemp flower could bring in $14 million in gross revenue yearly just from farmers selling their product. If that product were sold at a markup on a retail level, that could be far higher — as high as $130 million.

“It’ll kind of blow you away,” Linne said, “the economic impact that it could bring to farmers.”

Law enforcement concerns

State police are worried legalizing hemp flower would take away what they say is a valuable tool in enforcing marijuana law: the presumption that the presence of a cannabis flower is a crime.

Currently, police have the right to arrest anybody who has marijuana or hemp flower, because both are banned. But if one is legalized, police won’t be able to tell whether a bud is legal or illegal.

In HB 1224’s hearing last month, a Purdue University researcher presented a new test that would allow law enforcement officers to tell if a flower is from marijuana or hemp in fewer than two minutes. Much like a breathalyzer, the test is designed to be easy for police officers to use roadside.

But the test is still new, prosecutors say, and it’s not going to hold up in court.

Dave Powell, senior counsel for the Indiana Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, saidduring the hearing that tests like these typically go through years of process before courts will allow them as evidence. He warned it may not be considered a viable law enforcement tool for some time.

“I don’t know of any court in the country that’s recognized (a test like this) as being admissible,” Powell said.

In a statement from the prosecutors association, a spokesperson said the group has additional concerns about HB 1224. These include that the bill would strip regulatory powers from the Indiana Seed Commissioner over hemp processors and handlers, and hamper the state’s ability to control hemp distribution.

The group also said this bill would remove the ability for law enforcement to protect Hoosiers from illegal hemp, or hemp over the 0.3% THC cap.

An amendment added last week may assuage some concerns about marijuana law enforcement. Under the new changes, hemp flower would be treated like an open container. This means if you want to transport hemp as a consumer, you’d need that container as evidence that the flower is not marijuana.

“It’s just another step to ensure that what the consumer has is hemp and not marijuana,” Eberhart said. “The state police are not going to support the bill even with that change. But we thought it was a better bill with the amendment.”

HB 1224 now awaits a vote before the full House. If approved, it would then move to the Senate for a committee hearing.

Content retrieved from: https://www.indystar.com/story/news/environment/2021/02/16/hemp-industry-sees-big-money-hemp-flower-police-marijuana-concerns/4251888001/.

Indiana InDepth: Indiana’s hemp industry going through growing pains

Indiana InDepth: Indiana's hemp industry going through growing pains

Submitted photo: Ben Hartman, owner of Clay Bottom Farm, an urban micro-farm in Goshen, poses with a CBD oil tincture created from his 2019 hemp crop.

While admittedly still in its infancy, Ben Hartman sees Indiana as well positioned to become a national leader in the burgeoning hemp production industry.

Owner of Clay Bottom Farm, an urban micro-farm located on the city’s north side, Hartman counts himself among the first Hoosier farmers to jump on the hemp bandwagon following passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. That bill legalized industrial hemp production in the U.S.

“We first got our hemp license in 2019, and we grew hemp here at the farm in 2019. This would be what’s considered high-CBD hemp. So, it’s not fiber hemp. It’s the hemp that’s grown for CBD extraction,” Hartman said. “And to make a long story short, it was a huge learning curve, a lot of fun, and overall a success in that we produced several quarts of CBD crude oil out of which we’ve been able to make, and brand, and market CBD tinctures. And we sell those CBD tinctures under the Clay Bottom Farm name through the Maple City Market in Goshen. We’re actually the only local source of that product.”

And according to Bruce Kettler, director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, Hartman was by no means alone in entering the hemp market. The latest available data indicates that more than 8,700 acres of hemp were grown outdoors in Indiana in 2019, while another 1.74 million square feet were grown indoors that same year. He noted that 2020’s numbers will not be released until this spring.

Not Marijuana

Hemp, marijuana’s non-psychedelic cousin, includes numerous crop varieties that in turn can be used for the production of multiple products, including CBD oil, food grade oil, grain and hemp fiber. Under current legislation, hemp cannot contain more than 0.3% of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the plant compound most commonly associated with getting a person high.

According to The Brookings Institution, federal law for decades did not differentiate hemp from other cannabis plants, all of which were effectively made illegal in 1937 under the Marijuana Tax Act and formally made illegal in 1970 under the Controlled Substances Act.

That began to change with passage of the 2014 Farm Bill, which reintroduced hemp production to the U.S. farming industry, though that legislation limited the distribution of hemp licenses to a small number of farmers, and growth was restricted to small-scale pilot programs aimed at studying market interest in hemp-derived products.

With passage of the more expansive 2018 Farm Bill four years later, the Office of the Indiana State Chemist, the regulatory body that oversees the state’s hemp program, was cleared to began large-scale distribution of licenses to Hoosier farmers, though they still needed a research proposal and to be associated with a university researcher in order to apply for a license.

“We had quite a bit of growth the last two years, so 2019 and 2020, when we were still in the research phase,” said Don Robison, feed administrator and hemp regulator with the OISC. “What we showed both of those years, though, was a lot of interest, a lot of licensing, a lot of registered acres, but a whole lot less actually planted than what was registered, and I attribute that to a lack of great (seed) sources.

“There are some good sources for plant material and seed, but — and I hate to say it this way — it’s still a little bit of the wild, wild west out there right now,” Robison added. “It’s a new industry, and even good folks that are trying to do the right thing, if they accept too many orders, or they can’t get their plant material to the quality it needs to get to, stuff like that can come back to bite them.”

Speaking to challenges within the industry, Marguerite Bolt, hemp extension specialist with the Purdue University Department of Agronomy, noted that one of the biggest challenges currently facing Indiana’s hemp industry is simply the fact that it is so young.

“This industry in particular just seems to be somewhat volatile, you know, because it’s developing. That’s probably one of the biggest factors, is it’s just very new, and we’re trying to understand where the market is going to go, what consumer demand is, etc. It just gets pretty complicated,” Bolt said. “And then, of course, regulatory changes make it an even more challenging plant to work with, because it seems like things are constantly changing when we look at rules and regulations.

“And for these growers, they have a lot on their plates already, and they’re trying to navigate this industry, and figure out who is buying, who is selling, what the potential looks like for them, etc.,” she added of the issue. “With these constant changes, I think, if I were a grower, it’s a huge deterrent.”


Robison pointed to oversupply and profitability — particularly in the area of CBD production — as another major challenge facing the state’s hemp industry.

“As far as acres of hemp production, CBD is by far the majority, accounting for probably about 85% of the total number of acres being planted,” Robison said. “That’s going to eventually have to change for profitability to really come into the market, because that’s where all of the oversupply is.

“The first people into the industry were making obscene amounts of money, and so that’s what got everybody involved in it, what got everybody interested,” Robison added. “That in turn resulted in a lot of non-farmers getting involved, people who didn’t have any farming experience, and now they’re having their own issues kind of learning how plants work with soil and fertilizer, that type of thing.”

Kettler agreed.

“I think we saw a lot of people who jumped into this really big, and the seed is expensive. It’s a new crop. So, we’ve got to learn how to grow it, we’ve got to understand the pests that can affect it, etc. So, it’s one of those things that I would encourage people not to jump into too hard, just because of the fact that they could lose a lot of money,” Kettler said. “All that is to say, what we are encouraging people to do is, make sure you have a contract for the outlet of your production before you plant. If you’re producing for CBD, for example, get a contract with somebody that’s going to process it for CBD. And the same is true if it’s being grown for fiber, etc. Make sure you have a contract in place that allows you to know you’ve got a way to take that production and do something with it, and market it, so that you’re protected a little bit.”

Still growing

Looking forward to the 2021 growing season and beyond, Robison is predicting continued growth within the state’s hemp industry, though likely at a less fervent and ultimately more manageable pace than had been seen in the crop’s 2019 and 2020 seasons.

A big reason for that prediction, he said, is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recent decision to approve the Indiana State Hemp Plan for commercially growing and processing hemp.

According to Robison, the new plan, approved by the USDA in October 2020, takes OISC’s pilot hemp program and transitions it to a commercial hemp production program, granting the OISC greater regulatory authority and the ability to clearly define the rules and regulations around hemp production and processing in Indiana.

Under the plan, Indiana farmers are no longer required to have a research component to be licensed. In addition, farmers are now eligible to include hemp in crop insurance, which gives them a bit more stability when it comes to the potential risks of growing the new crop.

However, in a change from free licenses in past years, those seeking licenses for the 2021 growing season will be charged a $750 application fee for either handlers or growers, or $1,500 for both.

While the primary goal of the new fee is to help the OISC cover its expenses connected to administering the state’s hemp program, which it is required to do under state statute, Robison said he also anticipates the fee could help curb some of the oversupply issues the state saw during the 2019 and 2020 growing seasons.

“And it looks like those that are licensing for 2021, so far those acres of production are way down for 2021. So, what that tells me is, the growers are realizing that there’s oversupply. They’re trying to grow one acre instead of five, or, if they’re growing fiber or for seed oil or for grain, they’re growing 10 acres instead of 20 or 30,” he added. “So, we’re seeing those kinds of positive growth signs amidst the negative of low prices, oversupply and some questionable suppliers. We’re starting to see the market shake out a little bit, which is a really good sign.”

The future

As for what Indiana’s hemp industry might look like in another five to 10 years, Robison said he anticipates what will likely be a gradual shift away from the current dominance of CBD production to an industry more focused on hemp grain and fiber production.

“I anticipate, and I hope, that Indiana’s market moves away from so many acres of CBD, just because of the oversupply problem, and moves instead toward grain and fiber,” Robison said. “Indiana’s growers already have the necessary equipment, and they’ve already got ways to process fiber and grain. So, I think that’s the place we’re going to settle in. There will still be CBD suppliers, but I think there will be many less CBD suppliers in five to 10 years than there are now.”

Bolt also noted that she anticipates hemp will always remain a niche crop in Indiana, rather than completely replacing the more traditional crops, such as corn and soybeans.

“At the university, and I think in the industry as a whole, a lot of us are trying to promote hemp as a diversification tool. So, not looking at it as, ‘I’m going to switch my farm to a hemp-only farm.’ We’d rather see, ‘how can I fit hemp into my current operation so I have more diversification,’ which economically is a good thing,” Bolt said. “It also provides some security, where if you have a crop failure one year, you’re not only relying on that specific crop. You have multiple rotations, fields planted in other crops, etc. So, that has kind of been my perspective as well. Basically, figure out how it fits into your system, and don’t do a complete overhaul just to grow hemp. Make it work for you.”

While only time will tell what the state’s dominant hemp crop will eventually end up looking like, Hartman said he’s confident that hemp production will continue in Indiana.

“It will definitely always be a niche crop, but it’s definitely here to stay, too. I don’t see the laws becoming more regressive. I see them opening up, especially as people become more familiar with the plant, and learn new ways to grow it that are safe and legal,” Hartman said, noting that while Clay Bottom Farm’s existing CBD oil supply should last him through the remainder of this year, he does plan on planting another hemp crop in 2022. “Indiana is actually ideally situated in terms of climate. Our climate is just ideal, and our soils are ideal for hemp production, too. So, I can see Indiana as being a real leader in hemp production.”

Aaron Rink, a fellow Goshen farmer and former partner with a large hemp farm operation in the Millersburg/New Paris area, is also optimistic about the future of hemp.

“I would say Indiana definitely has a future with hemp,” said Rink, who, while having exited the hemp production industry back in early 2020 due to personal reasons, is still a big supporter of the crop. “I know that the CBD oil market has peaked … but I still think there is a future and a market for hemp, particularly on the fiber side. What all can be raised fiber-wise, and what can be done with it, I still think there are things that haven’t even been invented yet that are going to require hemp. So, I think that’s pretty cool.”

Content retrieved from: https://www.tribstar.com/news/indiana_news/indiana-indepth-indianas-hemp-industry-going-through-growing-pains/article_fc2a73cc-998b-5e36-b97f-f872ae1546b5.html.

Hurdles still remain for rooting North Florida’s hemp industry

The first year of Florida’s hemp industry was one of trial and error on the ground, but the projections that it will become a green boom could mean a shift in the Panhandle’s agricultural scene.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said the first 8 months of cultivation since the state developed its program is only expected to get larger heading into 2021.

This year, the state approved 22,000 acres for hemp – the same acreage as tomatoes, watermelon and snap peas, and double the production of strawberries – but in the next 3-5 years it could balloon to 300,000 acres, or half of the land used to grow Florida citrus.

With tourism down in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic and agricultural losses projected at $500 million, hemp could be revolutionary for the state’s economy.

That’s coming as “our economy needs it most, due to COVID-19,” she said during a meeting of Enterprise Florida in early December.

“We are on the verge of a green industrial revolution here in the state of Florida with potential of billions of dollars in economic impact, tens of thousands of new jobs and potential new products in the marketplace,” she added.

Estimates put the total economic output in the first year somewhere around $500 million and more than $17 million in tax revenue.

Fried said hemp is being used in roads and houses are being built already using “hempcrete.” It’s an alternative to plastics and is used in the health and wellness industries.

With the going price for harvested hemp projected to be around $5,250 per acre, Fried said she expected acreage and sales to continue to grow.

North Florida is uniquely positioned to become a hemp fiber mecca with eager farmers and plenty of agricultural land. The more than a dozen counties in the region, from Levy to Gulf counties, represent roughly 2,125 acres in cultivation permits issued by the state.

Hemp has become a top-of-the-funnel issue for the Apalachee Regional Planning Council (ARPC), which is eying it as a possible way for silviculture, or tree farmers, to rebound from the devastation that leveled thousands of acres of pine trees and to attract a new industry.

ARPC represents nine counties from Jefferson west to Gulf County.

Jackson County Commission Chairman and ARPC executive committee treasurer Jim Peacock said there is a lot of interest in hemp as a rotational crop in his part of the state, about an hour west of Tallahassee.

As much as 68% of the economy in that rural county is rooted in agriculture with most farmers growing peanuts, cotton, soybeans and corn. But the return on investment leaves farmers working harder to make their crops earn money.

“If we can come up with a crop that is profitable for them in their rotation, it would be a great thing and keep the farmer going,” Peacock said. “If they can make $1,000 an acre (in a harvest), they would be happy. They have to work hard to get close to that with peanuts and cotton.”

Peacock said the county is open to offering free land to a processor, a handful of which have already approached the county about locating there – noting that the state transferred the Dozier School property over to the county in 2018 – but until planting starts and a processor arrives, the hemp industry may not take off.

He said there are a lot of farmers lined up ready to start planting but there is some hesitancy because of two issues:

  • A requirement that the plants test lower than 0.3% THC, the psychoactive chemical that produces a high in hemp’s cousin marijuana, or be destroyed.
  • The lack of a nearby processing facility where the fibers can be made into industrial products.

He proposed some mechanism that would funnel hemp that tests above the regulation to go to industrial uses instead of to consumers in the form of CBD products.

“We’ve got the land; we’ve got people that could plant 1,000 acres, but they don’t want to put the money and time into it until we get the issue of THC resolved,” Peacock said.

He added: “I don’t see why you couldn’t do it because who is going to eat a concrete block?” referring to hempcrete.

Jeff Sharkey, a Tallahassee-based lobbyist and executive director of the Florida Hemp Association, said there was an oversaturation in the national hemp market in 2019 after Congress decriminalized hemp the previous year.

Sharkey was an organizer of the 850 Hemp Summit last year that looked to plot a path forward for the industry in North Florida.

Now that the market has somewhat stabilized, the push this year was to find strains that grew well in Florida and remained below the THC limits so they would be appealing to growers and their investment in a crop.

It caused some farmers not to plant out the full acreage they were approved for.

“Most people said, ‘let me test this out. I’ve got a permit for 10 acres but I’m only going to grow an acre or two and see how it goes,’ which is smart,” he said. “That was part of the message from the 850 Summit: This is new, it’s going to take a while to grow and mature.”

With the industry’s boom, Sharkey said, came a number of out-of-state seed brokers who provided little oversight and falsely claimed their seeds were certified by the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies, which certifies agricultural seeds of all types.

Both Florida A&M University and the University of Florida have launched seed genetics programs where they look to find the right strains for the Sunshine State that are resistant to pests and enjoy the sandy soil.

That includes a focus on getting a certifiable seed stock, part of a push from state lawmakers like former Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, and Sen. Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula, who worked through the rulemaking process.

“There’s been a lot of disappointing results from seeds,” Sharkey said. “Out of 24 seeds grown with FAMU, only four were approved.”

Seeds go for about $1 a piece and the hope is that more people will look to hemp for fiber instead of just the CBD market, where the perception is that there is a huge demand. Currently, no one in Florida is growing hemp for fiber, Sharkey said.

“The process for taking hemp fiber is very different and expensive and the extraction processing technology is hard to come by,” he said. “That is where a lot of people believe Florida’s competitive edge may be: growing for fiber.”

A virtual conference is planned for February to recount the first year of Florida’s hemp market and plan for the future.

Incoming ARPC Chairwoman and Leon County Commissioner Kristin Dozier said the North Florida industrial hemp market did not get the traction in 2020 anticipated during the 850 Hemp Summit last year.

The hesitancy of insurance and banking markets to get involved with hemp or back hemp farmers, a residual connection to marijuana remaining a scheduled drug at the federal level, remain hurdles to be overcome.

But with more focus on the industry in Florida, this may be the year when all the pieces come together, she said.

The major issue is attracting a processor and finding out what markets exist to make it viable for local farmers to grow and sell.

“Even without COVID, this would have been a year of learning and continued research on what types of seeds would grow in our region and some of these other regulatory issues that pose an issue for our farmers,” she said.

“The response from people throughout North Florida was incredible and we want to keep our focus on this issue. It is an industry that can work well in North Florida with our existing agriculture and existing communities.”

The 2021 Florida Virtual Hemp Conference will be held Monday, Feb. 22.

Content from: https://www.tallahassee.com/story/news/2020/12/19/hurdles-still-remain-rooting-north-floridas-hemp-industry/3961816001/.

Fine In the Field – December 2020

Fine in the Field - a column by author and hemp farmer Doug Fine

December, 2020: Announcing The Game Seven Line-up For Humanity: Gregor Mendel, Terroir, And Many Small Farms Vs. Gene Markers, Poor Soil, and More Farmer Serfdom

Each year at the peak of summer my sons and I find ourselves out in the hemp field, clutching baby toothbrushes and delicately spreading sticky grains of pollen on our plants’ flowers. Sometimes we have to stretch skyward to reach a cola‘s corona (that’s the crown of the peak flower). Often we’re sharing the plants with both honeybees and native bees (both varieties especially love the male flowers, which I mention for those who recognize pollinators’ role in our species survival). It is, for all species, a fragrant job.

Becoming a human pollinator requires no pre-requisite skillset except for an unflagging desire for one’s own family to be healthy and for humanity to survive. That’s not just a personal philosophy; it’s a professional one. It results in the highest quality hemp. And it provides plants and plant-derived products that, if the many small farmers who craft them can effectively educate customers, win hands down in the marketplace. Visualize #DoneWithMcCrap as a movement.

Out in the garden with our brushes, the only large-scale crap we encounter is organic goat poop. Although we’re taking an active role in the field, we’re aware that the plants know what to do without our help. We’re chill with them living as they please, in their evidently thriving neighborhood comprised of the local soil microbes, our regional pollinators and the rest of the multi-species family on the Funky Butte Ranch here in the high desert.

We’re just trying to gently nudge the hemp toward producing, each season, a few more of the characteristics we would like to harvest for our own superfood diet, health-maintenance program, and hempcrete porch repair. Eventually, when policy catches up, we’d love to get them to other farmers who may also enjoy those characteristics in their harvests.

This is breeding, Gregor Mendel style. It (buzzing like a bumblebee with the people you love most) is also a really fun activity on a toasty summer morning. It’s how farming has been done for 8,000 years. It’s why we have carrots, pears and avocados that taste the way they do, and it’s why I recommend all of us get the food we don’t personally raise, not just our hemp, from our region’s organic farmers.

In this frame of mind, with this farming and entrepreneurial philosophy, it was strange to come inside one day over the summer, hop on a call with some university folk interested in these very genetics on which we’ve been “working,” and learn that some academics who are not farmers are, sigh, again attempting to create genetic markers to tell us whether our hemp is, um, hemp.

Let me tell you how interested I am in that process (I won’t call it a development): not at all. Repeat memo to academia and to everyone who hasn’t yet received versions 1 through 42, nor looked out their window lately and noticed climate change and obesity and diabetes epidemics: we’re not doing agriculture like that anymore. Not the top-shelf, regenerative craft hemp farmer/entrepreneurs who comprise the heart of the new industry, anyway.

The reason? This mode of lab dictated genetics would result in inferior hemp and health. What we regenerative farmers aim for, because we are confident it is the best mode for both quality and farming communities (not to mention soil and wider human health) is a broad and diverse array of regional genetics, developed and owned by farmers.

Terroir is the term for this important marketplace variety that we see in other high-value crops like wine and in farm-based delicacies such as top-shelf cheese. If you’re not already on the support-your-region’s-regenerative-hemp-enterprises-even-if-it-means-an-extra-step-beyond-the-supermarket-or-box-store train, I’ve got some good news for your taste buds and your body’s built-in, ready-to-go endocannabinoid system: get ready for vintage, top-shelf hemp. We’re talking entire sections of stores filled with all parts of the plant – even entire stores. It’s already happening. I can get regional hemp at my local food co-op in New Mexico, for instance.

At the supermarket, one might expect every Wheat Thin to look just like every other Wheat Thin. But in our already industry-leading craft hemp market, customers are, as we speak, looking for varietals that will vary from year to year and from region to region. These are the products to bring to a wedding dinner, and to feed your family for maximum bioavailability. And the niche is going to help revive rural communities worldwide.

Whenever I get to this point, I always think of something that South Carolina farmer Nat Bradford, scion to one of the oldest watermelon growing families in the United States, told me (he also grows okra and hemp): “When my great-great-grandparents were breeding their favorite varieties a hundred and fifty years ago, they didn’t select based on sweetness spectrometer analysis or focus groups. They sliced up melons and choose the ones that tasted best to them.”

Your hemp, in other words, couldn’t be grown anywhere else. A Vermont hemp harvest will taste different from a New Mexican or Ghanaian hemp product. You wouldn’t want a uniform taste in every variety of Sonoma wine. In American Hemp Farmer, Chad Rosen of Victory Hemp Foods told me that one of his challenges and pleasures as a superfood purveyor is that there isn’t yet any firm hemp taste profile. My take is, what an opportunity! What an advantage for independent purveyors! Vive la difference is one of the rallying cries for digital age farmer success — in any crop.

As every farmer should, I believe that my own seeds rock – they serve up a distinct and magnificent nutty taste explosion that conjures 1970s Hawaiian V-8 commercials. I love our harvest’s nutritive profile as well – the seed meal had north of thirty percent protein when we tested it. Just as beautiful to me is this reality: one state over, one county over, even one valley over, a farming family’s taste and nutritive profiles, building on their own soil neighborhood’s microbial brew, will have its own set of characteristics.

This is, of course, not a breaking news bulletin for farmers. It would be a winemaker’s most unimaginable nightmare, for instance, to have anyone, inside or outside of a lab, tell her what grape genetics are best for her soil. The best vintners (and okra farmers and hemp farmers) work on this, year in and year out, in their specific microclimate and soil, for decades. It is their primary work project. It is their IP, their children’s health care plan. Mine, too.

The takeaway here is that the previous century of agriculture has been an aberration that has impoverished farmers, soil and human health. We early modern regenerative hemp farmers are prepared to reverse this, with pleasure. With tiny pollinating brushes, alongside the bees. Which is to say, we will develop our own genetics, unhindered, thank you very much.

Sorry to cut the herbicides, the shipped-in nutrients, and the academics out of the process, but that last crew has options: you can bring top-shelf farmer/breeders on as your bosses, or you’re free to research mass junk genetics of the kind that left us with tasteless, modern GMO wheat, pesticide-soaked corn syrup, and the resulting gut problems and obesity crises. That choice, though, we regenerative farmers humbly assert, lands firmly on the wrong side of history.

See, we farmers own our top-shelf seeds, and while most folks in general, including most academics, are honest, respectful folks, we’re wise to any attempts to co-op our genetics in the name of tenured “research.” This time the farmers are in charge. Academia and Wall Street, if and when involved in the regenerative agriculture renaissance, work for us. Make no mistake, thousands of farmers like myself aim to get the best genetics out widely and, to put it simply, feed the world. But many of us are doing it on our terms, with a sort of open source mentality. You can replant our seeds for your products (you bought them, they’re yours), but if you market the genetics, you pay a royalty.

As we have discussed in the past here in the Fine in the Field column, a farmer might get this initial reaction upon proposing a change in a professional relationship structure, farm economics or regulatory protocol: “But that’s not how the agriculture system has been done lately.” To this, the farmer might reply, “How’s that been working out for the planet’s farmers and soil?”

Remember, we have a Farm Aid, not a Hedge Fund Aid or a Tenured Departmental Head Aid. As Bill Althouse, cofounder of the Fat Pig Society organic hemp cooperative in Fort Collins, Colorado is always reminding me (and not for the first time in this column), “Today’s farmers get about three cents of every retail dollar from their crops. Our goal is a hundred cents, less expenses.”

The rub, although I can’t believe I even have to state something this obvious, is, hemp farmers are the folks who, um, know hemp. As Michael Pollan put it in Botany of Desire and as I also seem to cite fairly often, “America’s cannabis/hemp farmers are the best gardeners of my generation.”

We encourage, for instance, the minute differences in terpenes, cannabinoids and flavonoids that your microbiome will provide in Iowa versus mine in New Mexico. In fact, our regenerative craft cannabis/hemp business plans explicitly call for these variations.

Make no mistake, a craft market is the future of cannabis/hemp. If we’re wise, regional, regenerative thinking is the future of the worldwide economy; hemp is just showing the way. Thanks for assisting us with this, but staying the heck out of what we grow. Unless, of course, you would like to join the large and increasing hemp team and become a regenerative farmer yourself. In that case, welcome aboard.

This latest attempt to bring hemp gene into the lab follows another cockamamie (and thankfully short-lived) one a decade ago where “researchers” thought they might inject a neon-y yellow gene marker into a hemp plant to show that it really was hemp – as opposed, one supposes, to turnips. Yum: fluorescent hemp. That one was quickly called off, thankfully. And the latest efforts should be ignored as well. Among the many additional reasons for this is that we farmers are rapidly changing the ludicrous and recent definition of what hemp is. We don’t need chemists or technicians to help us define hemp. We need them to buy our hemp harvests and tell their friends.

The win-win, if you haven’t heard, is saving humanity: cultivating regenerative hemp outdoors, under the sun and in native soil is one of the best single actions anyone can take to sequester carbon and mitigate climate change. A growing body of research suggests that each cubic inch of topsoil we restore of the world’s farmland sequesters up to three billion tons of carbon annually.

With that as a motivation you can perhaps see why thousands of farmers like me who are aboard the regenerative hemp train are not going to bow down for a second to placate folks looking backwards. If last century’s agricultural regulatory modes worked, if folks worldwide were getting healthier and carbon emissions were being reduced by, say 90%, then maybe we’d talk about continuing this model. You know, the one that treats farming families, when they are considered at all, like third class serfs, buried in a constant debt cycle.

As things stand, folks aren’t getting healthier and carbon emissions aren’t being rapidly reduced (though they were down 7 percent in the lockdown year of 2020), so our advice is to follow us regenerative farmers as we take charge once again. Or else retire and make room for practices that are going to allow for humanity’s successful emergence from its petrochemical phase.

In many ways we’re talking about an updated return to the successful period before “better living through chemistry.” It’s how the whole planet operated without supermarkets and stock exchanges. And a refocused economic leadership modus operandi can only do a better job than McAg has done. It’s Game Seven for us all. Bottom of the ninth.

This column is a bulletin for everyone steering into the hemp wormhole: as long as you’re aware that your business decisions might play a role in whether your grandchildren have a place to live, we’re on the same team. In particular, I hope folks who lean to the “entrepreneur” side of the farmer/entrepreneurial model remember that we’re all soil farmers now. And, since it was the disconnect between my reality in the field and a project in a lab that spurred this column, a special part of the dispatch goes to our friends and colleagues who have decided to make what you might call an old-school career in academia: if you’re in this category and are wondering, “OK, where exactly are we residing if we’re no longer living in the ‘better living through chemistry era’?,” here’s the update: we’re living in the “survival through soil building” era.

Too many of us who are caretaking soil have caught on to those minority of academics who are really in the funding and prestige game. We don’t care about departmental grant writing opportunities unless the end game is forward-looking and farmer-led. In other words, please don’t merely ask for our knowledge and seeds (AKA our IP), if the end game is intended to benefit primarily you or your institution. As the owners of our side and expertise, we farmers profit from the success of our work. An academic already gets a salary. And job security. Whether or not it hails on the crop.

The reason this discussion carries some urgency is that we’re talking about the whole grandkids-having-a-habitable-planet thing. Yours and mine. Just that. By way of proposing an alternative to the old way of doing farm research, in my earlier book Hemp Bound, I suggested a Digital Age Homesteading Act:

If I held the USDA purse strings (or its equivalent in any nation), I would direct tons of energy, human power, and funding toward a Digital Age Homesteading Act that incentivizes a surge in independent hemp production and other soil-building crops that provide healthy food. The idea fits seamlessly with all this talk of a Green New Deal. It also rebuilds rural communities while all the climate mitigating is under way.

I wasn’t going to write a column that touched on this latest gene marker stuff, which despite the modern-sounding test-tubing of a plant, is the ultimate in antiquated thinking: I mean, its messaging is basically, “Hey, let’s develop just a few varieties of official hemp, since monoculture has worked so well with corn and soy and human health.”

For one thing, no need to draw attention to this kind of nonsense. But my goal isn’t to censor it. My aim is to inspire us to ignore this kind of thinking so its ilk stops getting funding and goes away, like fluorescent hemp; like all bad ideas.

See, my main interest is enriching the regenerative farmers whose work is going to play a key role in extending the duration of our residence on Earth. To that end, I’m highlighting a situation to avoid: non-farmers trying to dictate to farmer/entrepreneurs what and how to grow.

Again reiterating that many academics I’ve met or worked with in the half-decade I’ve been cultivating hemp are honest, diligent and already open to the regenerative farming renaissance (indeed some, such as Charlotte Rosendahl of Sterling College in her work with soil microbes and in her support of farmers, are at the vanguard), too many of my fellow farmers have confirmed three glaring and troubling realities in the status quo of farm and food research:

1) Many researchers never give a thought to either the health of farming communities or to the health of soil. In the ground, studies are often influenced by funders, focused solely on yield (regardless of the inputs involved) or even seemingly geared toward pre-conceived click grabbing.

2) Sometimes the folks “supervising” the research, in powerful, very well-paid positions at their institutions, know jack-diddly about hemp, or regenerative farming at all. Or, dang, on occasion, even how a plant’s biology works.

This might be what surprises me most in some of my interactions with academia in recent years. If you find yourself mid-career in that kind of situation, why not go into another field, so to speak? One fairly prominent researcher told me his graduate students apply glyphosate in between research trials to “clear the deck.” Carcinogens, my friend, are not a control group. Back to undergraduate school for you (if not kindergarten). Let’s not mince words: living soil means humanity continues. We don’t have time for anything else.

And then, finally, there is this:

3) The financial exploitation of farmer knowledge and IP. To a guy whose slogan is, “this time the farmers are in charge” (including when it comes to genetics), it is anathema when ivory tower dwellers, already paid and tenured, want a cut of the action. I was recently told that if I were to give fifty percent of the rights to a cultivar I’m developing to a university, the affiliation might be used in exchange for a route to a certification stamp. Man, even the mafia at its height didn’t demand that kind of cut. And I was actually told to be happy: normally this institution demands all of the farmer’s IP. It’s evidently just the standard way they do business.

Sorry, guys, we’re doing it differently this time. We tried farmer debt serfdom for a century. It didn’t work. It broke rural communities worldwide and poisoned the world.

The lesson from the above three realities, my fellow hemp farmers, is, don’t be flattered that a tenured academic at a well-known college wants to collaborate with you. He should be flattered that a humanity-extender like yourself has time to speak with him. As should any investor, no matter how well-heeled. And I’d suggest not providing seeds unless you sign paperwork that you provide, and not any institutional paperwork with the tiniest red flag in it.

I learned from my own mentors (and now co-breeders) at Winterfox Farms in Oregon what a good materials transfer agreement (MTA) looks like. It’s likely a good move to get on that as well. Even then, I’ve sometimes found I’ve have to watch the researchers using my genetics closely, be persistent to get agreed-upon updates, and issue reminders that our written agreement prevented their replicating my IP without a further agreement.

United, of course, we farmer/entrepreneurs have power. If we use it to change how genetic certification is done, fine. I’m all for grown-up upgrading from broken systems. To name just one key point, growing food is a human right. It can’t be patented. The long nightmare of cannabis prohibition is over. Its three-generation duration is to our advantage: We can shape this industry any way we like.

If you are a researcher (or entrepreneur) interested in the myriad benefits of cannabis/hemp, you don’t have to be born with the knowledge. A good start, if you want to work with an experienced regenerative hemp farmer, is simply to do a rare thing: be humble about it. Enter into relationships where farmers are the managing partners.

Another good step for interested academicians or enterprises is to document your goals. The following holds true whether for-profit, not-for-profit, cooperative, B-corp. or research-based: if a project aims to provide, for instance, soil knowledge, or protein-rich seeds, to large numbers of independent farmers with an open source outlook, that’s promising.

I mention protein for a reason: If you’re doing hemp research, I hope many folks will steer it toward superfood characteristics and fiber properties, and not just cannabinoids (which of course are also wonderful and important). Food and fiber crops derive from dioecious (male and female) hemp, which will soon, let us pray, be grown outdoors in the millions of acres.

And a third key item that I believe is very wise for anyone considering any form of cannabis/hemp research to post with a hemp-paper stickie on their monitor: YOU CAN STOP WORRYING ABOUT THC. The war on cannabis is over. Cannabis won. When it comes to THC definitions, please operate with this awareness: cannabis/hemp will soon be returning to its eight millennia-old definition: namely, it is only the farmer’s business what is in her crop, unless a harvested female flower will be going to market at or above a locally determined THC threshold.

Federal THC definitions of “cannabis” versus “hemp” are going away. This, of course, further makes this gene marker balderdash irrelevant. We want to see what comes up out the ground local, in our unique soil, as we breed like Augustinian monks (that was Mendel’s day job). Reality, for those thinking about the coming cannabis/hemp markets, means focusing on field performance (not just yield but nutrient density) in sync with concurrent soil building.

As I mentioned in a previous Fine in the Field column, this next stage in policy can’t come too soon for a world immersed in multiple health crises: I was told by researchers in one 2019 field study that my cultivar performed the best in their northern state study, but that they couldn’t recommend it because it tested mildly hot (which, by the way, it never has done when I’ve cultivated it). So for now, not just farmers but customers will be offered inferior food because of incredibly minute variations in THC under an insane and arbitrary launch definition. On December 15, just as I was finishing this column, Senator Paul of Kentucky introduced the Hemp Economic Mobilization Plan (HEMP) Act of 2020. Guess what? It raises the definition of hemp to 1%. Early reactions from colleagues of mine with strong congressional relationships have expressed uncertainty as to whether this bill will gain traction, and it has a few clauses in other areas that could be improved, but I mention it here because we’re already seeing 1% THC legislation introduced. It’s going to happen. Let’s make it happen. If you haven’t already, please sign the Vote Hemp 1% THC letter here.

Cannabis is cannabis, whether .7 percent THC or 19 percent THC resides in the female flower at harvest. THC, in fact, is irrelevant in the field, always, and irrelevant off the field until the retail level. Recognizing this somewhat obvious farming reality (in what other crop are farmers asked to hamper their crop’s performance out of fear of one compound within?) is one reason why Chinese fiber has the lead in the early hemp market: the plants are grown for fiber performance, without worrying about hypothetical THC in a flower that’s not going to market.

When farmers are not stressing over THC field tests, they can focus on what matters. And what matters are, 1) How your crop performs in its fiber, seed, and/or flower production, and 2) How much carbon you sequester in your regenerative farming techniques.

Moreover, please, everyone, always remember that her crop’s entire entourage effect, the balance of its cannabinoid/terpene/flavonoid/protein/mineral profile, is the farmer’s IP, the way that the iOS is iPhone’s IP. The last thing she would allow is any lab determining whether that IP meets some kind of far-off hemp definition. We are the in-the-field-researchers conducting R and D with every brush of pollen. To have anyone outside our field try to edit our crop would be like a non-techie regulator in 1977 advising Steve Wozniak what components to put into the first Apple computer. Obviously he’d tell that bureaucrat to stay the heck out of Silicon Valley brainstorming.

Our hemp work is of the same model. In American Hemp Farmer, I wrote, “Change being the only constant, what I like to emphasize is that hemp’s potential is so amazing, with previously unimagined applications appearing annually (witness hemp’s ideal molecular structure at the nano level for digital age applications like next generation supercapacitors), nothing going on inside a plant’s brain will surprise me. I feel safe declaring that a market sector not even in existence today will emerge by 2030. I hope those recyclable, next-generation hempen battery components come into play, a hempseed diet craze emerges, and a bunch of next-wave cannabinoid-terpene combinations bring about the final demise of the cancer cell.”

That means diversity, not monoculture. If we humans are clever, we’ll create conditions that ensure that tens of thousands of hemp varieties comprise a vibrant cannabis/hemp economy, not a few cultivars created by would-be patent holders holding farmers in another century of serfdom. This philosophy that we farmer/entrepreneurs espouse, in practice, is a return to the thinking that built America. Out on the prairie, Pa Ingalls was not indentured to the wheat company from which he bought his seed. Seed saving is part of the traditional farming process.

Sure, if you want to buy your genetics from a seller offering seeds cheaper than an open-source provider does, with the stipulation that you must buy them again next year, fine. As long as there are plenty of other options from which a farmer can choose. We are perfectly happy to see a level playing field when it comes to genetics available for farmers. There are scores of terrific open-source domestic seed varieties available to newcomers to hemp, whether they’re growing for seed, fiber, cannabinoids, soil building, or, as I am, for all of the above. This farmer’s choice model, I’m glad to report, is how genetics rules work in most of the states where I’ve cultivated, including New Mexico and Vermont.

Once the industry has matured a bit, all these varieties can qualify for seed certification in a state or region. Some states are already moving forward on fair certification rules, including Colorado and Oregon, but I favor allowing at least a decade of open source seed development and distribution prior to the certification process in any region, to allow farmers to make progress with the pollen brushes.

I say, “this time the farmers are in charge,” and I don’t necessarily mean exclusively human farmers. The recently-harvested seeds I’ve got stored here on the Ranch do so much to keep those about whom I care most healthy that I feel as though I work for them. As Bob Dylan puts it, “you gotta serve someone.” Whoever is really running the show, it’s happening on the farm. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: It’s good to have friends in low places. A thriving field means thriving soil, which means humanity has a shot at making a go of it post-petroleum.

About Doug Fine
Doug Fine is a comedic investigative journalist, bestselling author, and solar-powered goat herder. His latest book is American Hemp Farmer: Adventures and Misadventures in the Cannabis Trade (Chelsea Green Publishing, April 2020). He has cultivated hemp for food, farm-to-table products and seed-building in four U.S. states; You can register for his online regenerative hemp course with Acres USA here. Willie Nelson calls Doug’s work “a blueprint for the America of the future.” The Washington Post says, “Fine is a storyteller in the mold of Douglas Adams.” A website of Doug’s print, radio and television work, United Nations testimony, and TED Talk is at dougfine.com and his social media handle is @organiccowboy.