By Steve Elliott
U.S. Congress members from Oregon on Monday urged state agriculture officials to speed up a pilot project allowing farmers to begin cultivating industrial hemp crops in time for next year's growing season.
The federal lawmakers said in a letter that the program missed the 2015 growing season because of concerns in the Oregon Legislature over how hemp would coexist with the marijuana industry, which became legal for recreational use by adults in Oregon on July 1, reports Shelby Sebens at Reuters.
Industrial hemp cultivation faces a number of complications, including the fact that all forms of cannabis are federally illegal. Prosecutors have cautiously allowed state hemp experiments to inch forward.
In the letter, sent to Oregon Department of Agriculture Director Katy Coba and Oregon State University Director of the College of Agricultural Sciences Daniel Arp, lawmakers said provisions in last year's Farm Bill allow states and universities to research potential benefits of commercial hemp cultivation.
"The potential for industrial hemp production represents a great opportunity for Oregon agriculture," the lawmakers wrote.
Oregon, which has issued 13 hemp licenses to farmers since adopting rules for the program in January, is reviewing the letter, according to Agriculture Department spokesman Bruce Pokarney. The agency is reviewing the letter, Pokarney saikd.
By Steve Elliott
If things go according to plan, the world's very first hemp airplane could make its maiden flight as early as this fall.
The plane, composed of 75 percent hemp, will take off from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, chosen for its symbolic value as the site of the first flight by the Wright Brothers. The project is part of Canadian Derek Kesek's plan to help get industrial hemp use noticed, reports Deb Hopewell at Outside.
"There are many advantages to using hemp," said Kesek, who founded Hempearth, a Waterloo, Ontario-based company focused on developing hemp products for mass use. "This plane project is just our first experiment with industrial hemp, and we plan to explore many uses.
"Once we establish structural testing and information from the hemp project, we will take that and work on the next best implication," Kesek, a former organic-restaurant owner in Burlington, Ontario, said. "The sky may not be the limit."
Kesek believes hemp can be used to replace the fiberglass currently used to build airplanes. This is important because hemp is carbon neutral, whereas the fiberglass manufacture creates air pollution, releasing styrene into the atmosphere.
“Our experts have tested the strength and durability of woven hemp material compared to fiberglass, the traditional material for aircrafts, and determined that in most cases hemp is as strong, or stronger, than fibreglass,” according to Hempearth.
By Steve Elliott
Wall Street analyst James Savage thought there must be a better way. Growing disturbed about the conditions he saw on TV after events like Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake in Haiti, he started looking for a better building material -- and the material he found, through a simple Internet search, was industrial hemp.
"There has to be something better we can do than this," he recalled thinking, reports Matt A.V. Chaban at The New York Times. "Who knew hemp would be the answer to what we were looking for?"
Savage started a company, Green Built, to create building materials derived from cannabis. His first project has been his own 1850s farmhouse, but he said he believes hemp-based building materials can transform both agriculture and construction.
Hemp has had a long history as a fiber used in ropes, sails, and paper products, with Presidents Washington and Jefferson famously cultivating it. Savage is among a small but growing number of entrepreneurs who have turned to hempcrete, which is made using the woody interior of the cannabis stalk combined with lime and water.
Hempcrete provides natural insulation, and is flexible, non-toxic, impervious to mold and pests, and practically fireproof.
By Steve Elliott
Two Pennsylvania lawmakers have pre-filed legislation that they say would help farmers become part of the multi-million dollar hemp industry.
"The 2014 federal Farm Bill authorizes pilot programs for industrial hemp, and SB 50 provides oversight for growing, harvesting and marketing a traditional commonwealth crop while providing new opportunities for Pennsylvania farmers," said state Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks County), who is co-sponsoring the bill with state Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon County).
Schwank said industrial hemp has been used for thousands of years, and was commonly grown in Pennsylvania until the last century.
About 50,000 potential applications exist for hemp, including textiles, building materials, paper, plastics, foods, medicines, biomass, and environmental products.
"The use of industrial hemp provides a multitude of benefits," Folmer said. "The best farmland preservation is allowing farmers to farm their land profitably.
"Hemp is also a crop that helps the environment," Folmer said. "Consumers will benefit from the many uses of hemp."
More than a dozen other states have already passed laws allowing either hemp farming or research programs. The hemp industry was worth an estimated $500 million in 2012, according to the Hemp Industries Association.
Cleveland Hunger Network Partners with New Omega-Fats Initiative for Mental Health Month
Twenty States Have Legalized Industrial Hemp By Wide Margins, With Major Health Institutions Giving the Nod to Hemp's Protein-Rich Nutrition
With interest in food, farming, wellness, and all-things-cannabis are on the rise, industrial hemp is attracting a fan base broader than "hipsters" and vegetarians that may first come to mind. Major health institutions are now on board, giving the nod to the nutritional quality of hemp's protein-rich seeds, and assuring people eating them will not cause failed drug tests.
The productivity of Canadian hemp producers has gone up in recent years, bringing more affordable hempseed foods to grocery stores and vitamin websites. Politically, hemp is a rare bipartisan issue, as evidenced by the 20 states that have legalized the crop by wide margins, defining it as a distinct variety of cannabis sativa, having .03 percent THC or less (no drug/narcotic value).
This is welcome reform for Plant Kingdom Bakery owner Jeremy Koosed, who claims to have discussed the subject of hemp for nutrition with hundreds of thousands of people. For the past five years, the Lyndhurst-based "snackery" has been onhand with hempseed foods and information at community festivals and farmers markets. Coffee shop baristas have also helped clarify the subject for customers, as Phoenix Coffee locations in Cleveland and Nervous Dog in Akron have made Plant Kingdom snacks available since 2009.
For the first time in two generations, the Industrial Hemp crop has been legally harvested in Kentucky. The hemp plots were grown in compliance with Kentucky state law and in accordance with Sec. 7606 of the 2014 US Farm Bill (Agricultural Act of 2014) that authorized hemp cultivation for research purposes in states that permit Hemp farming.
The agricultural excitement spurred some of Ohio's long-time hemp advocates to travel south to meet the farmers and gain first-hand experience with the plant that cannabis prohibition has kept out of American fields until very recently.
In votes often favoring Hemp by wide margins, 20 states have legalized the crop, defining it as Cannabis Sativa L., having .03 percent THC or less (no drug/narcotic value). The reforms are welcome in Kentucky, where tobacco growers are hurting for alternative crops.
Even with the non-drug status being declared federally, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) seized viable hemp seed en route to Kentucky from Italy, as outdated policy under the Controlled Substances Act doesn't recognize the scientifically-demonstrated chemical distinctions between "marihuana," a Schedule I narcotic, and hemp, a viable agricultural cash crop commodity. Kentucky sued the DEA to release the seeds, and prevailed in federal court, allowing the research plots to proceed.
By Steve Elliott
Agriculture officials in Oregon have for months now been working on rules for industrial hemp production, with a goal of having them finished in time for a Spring 2015 planting. But one man from Portland doesn't want to wait.
Rick Rutherford, 47, has some land in Dufur, and he doesn't want to wait, reports Noelle Crombie at The Oregonian. Rutherford, who said he sees big potential for industrial hemp, last week sent an application to the Oregon Department of Agriculture, requesting permission to grow hemp on his land in Wasco County.
"Time is of the essence as planting seeds needs to be underway within the next couple of weeks to conduct a viable outdoor research pilot program in Oregon," wrote Courtney Moran, a Portland lawyer, in a letter accompanying Rutherford's application.
"I think it will be kind of fun to do," Rutherford said. "I have been itching to do this for a long time."
State officials on Thursday said they aren't ready to start issuing hemp-growing licenses. The rule writing process has been torturously slow, as officials labor of licensing fees and processing rules.
The Farm Bill approved by Congress earlier this year allows states where industrial hemp is legal -- including Oregon -- to permit hemp production by universities and state agriculture departments. Sixteen states allow hemp cultivation.
By Steve Elliott
Hemp has been legally planted in Kentucky for the first time in decades, signaling the tentative return of a crop which once was a lucrative industry for the Bluegrass State.
University of Kentucky researchers on Tuesday planted a small crop of 13 varieties of hemp seeds, finally released last week by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) after pointless bureaucratic wrangling.
Although industrial hemp was an indispensable crop for Kentucky through World War II, it was the first time it had been legally planted in the state since the 1970s, reports Janet Patton at the Herald Leader.
University of Kentucky agronomists RIch Mundell and David Williams will supervise the hemp study. The plants are expected to sprout in 7 to 10 days and will be harvested in October. Each variety will be evaluated for its seed and fiber production.
"It's exciting to be working on something different, and we're very hopeful it will be successful," said Williams. "Generally speaking, compared to some crops, it's not difficult to grow.
"But there are some things that are unknown today," Williams continued. "In particular, differences in the varieties of hemp we have access to today."
While much of the economic interest in hemp decades ago was based on its fiber, now there's more focus on the seeds, which can be press for a nutritious oil which contains essential fatty acids (EFAs) Omega 3 and 6.
By Steve Elliott
The Farm Bill passed in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday morning by a vote of 251 to 166, including the hemp provision. "This is a big first step towards allowing American farmers to once again grow industrial hemp," according to VoteHemp.org.
The hemp provision was originally introduced as an amendment to the Farm Bill by Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colorado), Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon), all three of whom represent states which have legalized industrial hemp. The provision allows universities and state agriculture departments to grow hemp for academic or agricultural research purposes, but applies only to states where industrial hemp farming has already been legalized under state law.
"By including language easing restrictions on industrial hemp in states where it is legal, Congress sends an important message that we are ready to examine hemp in a more appropriate way," Rep. Blumenauer said on Monday.
"Vote Hemp was pleased with the bipartisan support for the amendment and worked with key Republican and Democratic offices in both the House and Senate to ensure the amendment was included in the conference report, which passed the House on Thursday. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) reportedly worked to keep and strengthen the hemp provision in the Farm Bill.
By Steve Elliott
Hemp cultivation for research purposes by colleges, universities and state agriculture departments is allowed in the new Farm Bill, according to a report released Monday night by the U.S. Senate and House conference committee on the bill.
The hemp amendment in the Farm Bill was written by U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon), U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky), and U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colorado), reports Noelle Crombie at The Oregonian. All three Congressmen represent states where industrial hemp production is already legal under state law.
The inclusion of the industrial hemp amendment in the Farm Bill is a "bright spot in an otherwise disappointing bill," Rep. Blumenauer said late on Monday. The bill, which cuts about $8 billion from the food stamp program over the next decade, is expected to be voted on by the U.S. House and Senate on Wednesday.
"Oregonians have made it clear that they believe industrial hemp should be treated as an agricultural commodity, not a drug," Blumenauer said in an email to The Oregonian. "By including language easing restrictions on industrial hemp in states where it is legal, Congress sends an important message that we are ready to examine hemp in a more appropriate way."
The amendment allows colleges, universities and state agriculture programs to cultivate hemp for research and pilot projects; it does not, however, protect individual farmers who grow the crop.