Farmers, Industry Leaders Excited About Future of Industrial Hemp in Kentucky

KENTUCKY — Kentucky Hemp is coming back. Fiber, seed, fuel, oil, and artisan products are simmering in the recently revived hemp industry.

 

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Research and debate about bringing hemp back has circulated since the 1990s, when other countries like Canada and Australia re-legalized hemp production. Finally, last year, the 2014 Farm Bill provided a framework for U.S. state agricultural departments and universities to plant hemp seed on U.S. soil as long as individual state law allows it.

Now, Kentuckians are turning their research and theories into a promising hemp industry.

“We don’t want to put the cart before the horse,” said Josh Hendrix of the newly formed Kentucky Hemp Industries Association (KYHIA). “We haven’t had a hemp industry for over 70 years.”

He says research is necessary to reduce risk to farmers. His organization and others, who have participated in hemp trials, are testing for the best seeds to plant, and the best way to harvest and process hemp crops. Part of KYHIA’s mission is to disseminate its research and provide education about the hemp industry.

Hemp production was deterred in the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act. Then, in 1970, the Controlled Substance Act coupled hemp with the drug, marijuana, making hemp illegal as a narcotic. Hemp does not hold the drug’s THC properties, but the plant is from the same genus, cannabis, and looks similar.

Before 1937, 98% of hemp seed used in the U.S. came from Kentucky. Now, they have no seeds. Hemp trials have used seeds imported from other countries.

“2014 was a celebratory year, just to get seed in the ground,” said Hendrix. “2015 has seen a nice expansion, with 326 applications.”

Kentucky farmers can submit applications to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture to participate in the hemp revival. They must provide production plans to be approved, and pass a background check to appease the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

Kentucky U.S. Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, along with two Oregon senators, submitted a bill on January 8, 2015, to decouple hemp from marijuana, and remove hemp production from DEA enforcement.

“We don’t know if or when it might become a legal crop,” said David Williams, of the University of Kentucky. “We also do not know how large an industry the market will support. We extrapolate based on data from other markets, but we cannot know exactly what the market will be in the U.S.”

A Promising Market

Kentuckians have deep roots with the hemp plant, and have grand plans for bringing the industry back. Industries, like tobacco and coal, are facing hard times, and hemp may offer both profitable alternatives.

Hemp advocates, like Hendrix, also see hemp as a crop to sustain dwindling family farms, and increase young and new farmers. Artisans can use hemp for cloth, beauty products, teas, and countless other items. The organic market for hemp is also highly profitable and growing.

Seventh generation family farmer, Andy Graves, grows conventional grains like soy, wheat, and corn. His generation is the first in his family to not grow hemp. The Graves family was the top hemp seed producer when hemp was legal, and is set on renewing that legacy.

“The market is so big,” Graves said. “We haven’t even scratched the surface.”

Graves is also the CEO of Atalo Holdings, Inc. The group contracted 5 farms to grow hemp in 2014 and for 2015 they’ve expanded to 26 farms. Atalo has three subsidiaries: Hemp Oil Kentucky, Kenex, and Kentucky Hemp Research and Development — each focuses on seed, fiber, and research and development, respectively.

Oil from seed, Graves said, has a quick return. Once Atalo has a revenue stream from oil, it will invest in fiber operations. Fiber operations have a higher barrier to entry because of the cost of new machinery.

Hemp seed can be harvested using the same equipment as conventional grain. As far as processing, Graves said that seed pressing equipment that is currently used for chia and sesame seeds can also be used for hemp. He will add chia and sesame to his portfolio as well.

Graves is using the most popular hemp seed for oil: Finola, from Finland. Atalo has guaranteed a no loss crop by securing a deal with Hemp Oil Canada to buy any seed Atalo cannot sell.

‘We haven’t scratched the surface of the market.’

Atalo has been approved for 356 acres of hemp, and is hoping for up to 500. 10-12 acres will be devoted to organic hemp seed production. Their research and development subsidiary aims to be an educational asset to the hemp industry in the U.S., Graves says.

Hendrix, Graves, and Williams all emphasize that they are building a new industry from the ground up. It will take research and time, but, Hendrix believes they have “the right people, the right place, and the right time” to build the industry and create jobs.

The Hemp Capital of the U.S.

Other groups germinating in the Kentucky hemp industry include The Kentucky Hemp Growers Cooperative Association, which focuses on biomass and high capacitance graphene nano-sheets; and Sunstrand LLC, which focuses on industrial fiber. There are many others cropping up. Stay tuned, says Graves, new developments are breaking on Kentucky soil.

The laws may not be set yet, but hemp advocates in Kentucky are confident that their state will soon be known for more than bourbon, and re-claim their name as the ‘Hemp Capital of the U.S.’

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JOIN THE KENTUCKY INDUSTRIAL HEMP ASSOCIATION (KYIHA) HERE

U.S. House of Representatives Votes to Legalize Industrial Hemp

 

 

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The U.S. House of Representatives voted 225-200 on June 20 to legalize the industrial farming of hemp fiber. Hemp is the same species as the marijuana plant, and its fiber has been used to create clothing, paper, and other industrial products for thousands of years; however, it has been listed as a “controlled substance” since the beginning of the drug war in the United States. Unlike marijuana varieties of the plant, hemp is not bred to create high quantities of the drug THC.

The amendment’s sponsor, Jared Polis (D-Colo.), noted in congressional debate that “George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp. The first American flag was made of hemp. And today, U.S. retailers sell over $300 million worth of goods containing hemp — but all of that hemp is imported, since farmers can’t grow it here. The federal government should clarify that states should have the ability to regulate academic and agriculture research of industrial hemp without fear of federal interference. Hemp is not marijuana, and at the very least, we should allow our universities — the greatest in the world — to research the potential benefits and downsides of this important agricultural commodity.”

The 225-200 vote included 62 Republican votes for the Polis amendment, many of whom were members of Justin Amash’s Republican Liberty Caucus or representatives from farm states. But most Republicans opposed the amendment, claiming it would make the drug war more difficult. “When you plant hemp alongside marijuana, you can’t tell the difference,” Representative Steve King (R-Iowa) said in congressional debate on the amendment to the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013.

“This is not about a drugs bill. This is about jobs,” Representative Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) countered King in House floor debate June 20. Massie, a key House Republican ally of Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and a member of the Republican Liberty Caucus, opposes marijuana legalization but had signed on as a cosponsor of the Polis amendment.

The amendment would take industrial hemp off the controlled substances list if it meets the following classification: “The term ‘industrial hemp’ means the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of such plant, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.” The amendment would allow industrial farming of hemp “if a person grows or processes Cannabis sativa L. for purposes of making industrial hemp in accordance with State law.” Most states have passed laws legalizing industrial hemp, in whole or in part, but federal prohibitions have kept the plant from legal cultivation.

However, the annual agricultural authorization bill subsequently went down to defeat in the House by a vote of 195 to 234. Sponsors of the amendment hope that it will be revised in conference committee, where it has strong support from both Kentucky senators, Rand Paul and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The legislation, originally offered as the bill H.R. 525, was sponsored by Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), who represent states where voters recently considered ballot measures that legalized marijuana within their states, a fact King pointed out in House floor debate. Voters in Colorado and Washington approved the ballot measures in 2012, but voters in Oregon rejected a ballot measure that would have legalized cultivation of marijuana.

Recent polls have indicated that most Americans want legalization of marijuana, as well as hemp. Though support for marijuana legalization is by only a slim majority of the public, there’s a larger divide among age groups, with younger voters more heavily favoring legalization.

None of the debate on the amendment related to the constitutional authority of Congress to ban substances. Nor did any congressman reference the first time Congress banned a drug — alcohol. At that time, Congress followed proper constitutional protocol to amend the U.S. Constitution first, giving it the legitimate power to ban alcohol (i.e., the 18th Amendment). No comparable constitutional amendment has been passed for hemp, marijuana, raw milk, or any other substance prohibited by the federal government.

KELLY: Hemp vs. oil: How corporate & gov’t collusion perverted the free market

Travis Kelly

 

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Since the days of Cain and Abel, hemp has been one of the world’s largest and most versatile crops, used to make textiles, paint, soap, rope, building materials, fuel oil, protein supplements, and medicines. An acre of hemp produces far more paper than an acre of trees — and you would have to smoke an acre of it to get high, as industrial hemp, though similar in appearance to its close cousin, marijuana (cannabis), contains almost no THC.
Today, in only one industrialized nation in the world, is the cultivation of hemp illegal. You guessed it: Ours truly. And it makes as much sense as outlawing ALL mushrooms because some of them are psychoactive or poisonous. How this travesty came about in 1937 is a lesson in the collusion of big corporations with big government and big media to pervert the free market and stymie competition.
In the early 1930s, Henry Ford’s experimental biomass plant in Michigan extracted methanol, charcoal, tar pitch, and other distillates from hemp, demonstrating that it was an alternative to fossil fuels as an energy source, as well as a competitor to other petrochemical products then being introduced by the DuPont corporation, DuPont had a powerful ally in Washington — Secretary of Treasury Andrew Mellon, a banker who also had a controlling interest in the Gulf Oil Corporation.
Mellon appointed his loyal nephew, Harry Anslinger, as chief of the new Federal Bureau of Narcotics in 1932. Anslinger promptly began lobbying Congress to outlaw “marihuana,” using a series of hysterical propaganda stories run by newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst — that era’s Rupert Murdoch. Hearst owned vast timber lands in the Northwest that supplied the wood pulp for most of the American newspaper industry; DuPont chemicals were used to process that pulp. The “reefer madness” scare featured lurid, racist stories of “Mexicans and Negroes” going on murderous rampages while stoned; innocent white women seduced into ruin; teenagers going instantly insane after a puff; and other fearmongering fictions.
Anslinger told Congress that hemp — ALL hemp, whether smokable or not — was “entirely the Monster Hyde, the harmful effects of which cannot be measured.” The Marijuana Tax Act was rammed through Congress in secret committees controlled by DuPont allies. That same year, 1937, DuPont filed its patent on Nylon, which took over the textile and cordage markets that had been dominated by hemp. DuPont also supplied GM, which produced more than half of all American cars, with its petrochemical paints, varnishes, plastics and rubber, all of which could have been produced equally well from hemp. But no more. The competition had been criminalized.
The prohibition was suspended during WWII, with a Hemp for Victory campaign, then reinstated in 1955. Since then, our closest cousins, England, Australia and Canada (1998), have all legalized industrial hemp. China is the world’s number-one producer, exporting most of it to us — the world’s leading hemp importer — exacerbating our trade imbalance.
As global oil supplies continue to decline versus growing demand, and become harder to extract and import due to geological and political factors, domestic hemp could easily replace many petrochemical products with significant advantages.
Hemp is a renewable resource, one of the fastest growing and most productive plants on earth, yielding four crops and 25 tons of dry matter per hectare per year. It requires few pesticides and no herbicides. It is now being used as a building material, Hempcrete, and, combined with fiberglass and flax, to make body panels for automobiles. It has also proved excellent as a “mop crop” for cleaning up contaminated soil. In all these cases, hemp is carbon neutral or even carbon negative, scrubbing and sequestering CO2 from our warming atmosphere.
Several states have licensed the growing of industrial hemp — California, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, and West Virginia — but have not yet grown a single plant due to continued resistance by the DEA, who is still stuck in 1930s “reefer madness” paranoia, despite now overwhelming evidence that hemp’s cousin, marijuana, is far less harmful than alcohol for both health and public safety. To grow industrial hemp, the DEA must issue a permit under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act — and it never does.
Colorado can join that roster on Nov. 6 by voting for Amendment 64. Eventually, we will budge the DEA from its archaic stupidity, end the virtual dictatorship of the petrochemical industry, and safeguard our national security by again realizing Thomas Jefferson’s maxim: “Hemp is of first necessity to the wealth and protection of the country.”
Travis Kelly is a web/graphic designer, writer and cartoonist in Grand Junction. See his work or contact him at www.traviskelly.com.

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