By: Cecil King
Missouri Loses Another Harvest
While Missouri’s legislators continue to struggle with passing laws to regulate cannabis and the non-psychoactive hemp plant, other states are becoming more attuned to the economic potential of commercialized hemp production.
The Missouri Senate removed House Bill 830 allowing industrial hemp research from further debate as the 2015 growing season came to an end.
The US congress and the President gave the states a green light to start growing hemp for research purposes last year with the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill (i.e. Agricultural Act of 2014).
The state of Kentucky has wasted no time fast tracking their hemp program in 2014 and managed to plant 33 acres. It was the historic first legal hemp crop in decades for Kentucky.
On August 13, 2015, Adam Watson, the Kentucky Agriculture Department’s hemp program coordinator, proudly showed off part of his state’s second annual hemp crop at a University of Kentucky (UK) open house field day event. More than 200 researchers, farmers, ag extension agents and media viewed the historic crop at a test research site in Lexington, KY. “Hemp production will reach nearly 800 acres this year in Kentucky,” said Watson at the UK research farm.
“Acreage would have been higher,” explained Watson, “except for the delayed arrival of imported hemp seeds.” Unfortunately the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) didn’t get the memo about the change in the law and immediately impounded all inbound shipments of hemp seed destined for legal research programs. The DEA’s action temporarily stalled all scientific study programs throughout the US and Kentucky.
UK agronomist David Williams described the hemp program for the field day event attendees. Williams is confident of hemp’s long-term viability for creating profits for Kentucky ag producers.
Hemp is a highly profitable plant for farmers in that every part of the plant has utility and potential market value. Hemp’s oilseed makes high-grade food and beauty products. The stalks produce fiber and cellulose for everything from automotive parts and fine clothing to building products and fuel.
One highly visible US-based organic body-care products company, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, annually imports 20 tons of hemp oil just from Canada alone for producing its all-natural family of products.
Michael Bronner, Vice-President of Dr. Bronner’s Soaps, says hemp oil is a superfatting ingredient. His company uses it in all of their soaps because of its unsurpassed essential fatty acid (EFA) content. Hemp oil makes the soap lather smoother and less drying, and it is an excellent moisturizer in their lotions and balms.
Bronner complains that all the hemp plant and extracts they use in their products is imported into the US. Growing hemp without a federal permit was banned in 1970 due to its classification as a controlled substance related to marijuana.
Dr. Bronner’s and other manufacturers are ready to step up to the plate and exclusively use US grown hemp for their made in the USA products. During Colorado’s and Washington’s historic and successful cannabis and hemp legalization efforts, Bronner urged voters to approve Colorado’s Amendment 64 and Washington’s Initiative 502.
“Allowing the legal cultivation and processing of industrial hemp would provide Colorado and Washington with an infusion of new jobs and tax revenue in the near-term,” exclaimed Bronner. “Our company is ready to invest in developing hemp production in the US. It’s up to the voters to unlock real economic potential by voting yes on these hemp propositions this Election Day.”
According to the hemp farming advocacy group Vote Hemp, the US is the only industrialized nation in the world that prohibits the commercial production of industrial hemp, despite the fact that more hemp fiber, seed and oil is imported to the US than to any other country.
In 1943, US hemp production reached more than 150 million pounds (140.7 million pounds hemp fiber; 10.7 million pound hemp seed) on 146,200 harvested acres. In 2014, Vermont, Kentucky and Colorado had licensed permits to plant 1,831 acres, but due to the DEA’s hemp seed impound and legal obstruction only 125 acres of hemp crops was planted.
Hemp products sold in the US in 2014 had an estimated total retail value of at least $620 million, according to the Hemp Industries Association. However, for Missouri, not one penny of that huge market can go to a single Missouri farmer unless the Missouri state legislature passes an industrial hemp law allowing Missourians to start growing hemp.