High Hopes without the Buzz
“Going hot” was one of the phrases I heard a lot at the River’s Edge Convention Center in St. Cloud during a summit on Minnesota’s burgeoning hemp industry.
Presented by the Minnesota Hemp Association and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the December 3rd, 2019 conference attracted 450 active and potential growers, processors and marketers of the state’s newest cash crop.
Hemp is an industrial form of cannabis. When processed it has a multitude of uses from building materials to clothing to CBD oil now gaining popularity in the field of health and wellness.
Unlike marijuana, hemp plants are not grown to get you high.
Within 15 days prior to harvest certified testing of hemp plants is mandatory to ensure levels of THC, the principal psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, do not exceed the 0.3% level set by state and federal law. If they do exceed that level the plants have “gone hot” and cannot be legally sold or processed.
Going hot is not covered by crop insurance. It’s a serious risk for state licensed hemp farmers and the responsibility falls squarely on them.
To reduce the risk of surprise spikes in THC levels seasoned producers test their crop throughout the growing process. Experts also recommend purchasing hemp seeds and clones from reputable companies.
Growing a Local Economy
“I don’t want to make a killing, I want to make a living,” Winona LaDuke told attendees.
The former vice presidential candidate, environmentalist and the owner of Winona’s Hemp & Heritage Farm shared her vision to process hemp grown in her community.
Winona’s Hemp and the non-profit Anishinaabe Agricultural Institute envision a new economy based on local food, energy and fiber. Priorities include a hemp mill factory and the purchase of equipment to produce canvas textiles. During her keynote speech, she stressed the need to build a cooperative system for industrial hemp farmers and manufacturers.
Hemp building blocks
Industrial hemp has the potential to become an important building block for a new green economy. Research and development is underway to use industrial hemp for livestock feed, paper production, flooring, bio-fuels and the replacement of single-use plastics. For its champions, the list of potential uses seems infinite.
“Think Legos for adults,” Todd Mathewson of Just BioFiber Solutions prompted the crowd, while displaying a building block produced with hemp hurd (the woody, inner portion of the hemp stalk) during his presentation. The non-toxic biofiber building blocks are being produced by the Canadian company for home construction. According to Mathewson, the sustainable structural building blocks will go a long way in carbon sequestration.
Industrial hemp production and manufacturing shows potential in expanding Minnesota’s economy. Hundreds of attendees at the Hemp Association Conference underscore the desire to roll up sleeves and get to work.
To unleash that potential it will take continued research and development and an influx of private and public investment to maximize productivity, the development of hemp varieties and soil health.
Low cost loans for start-up and the expansion of crop insurance to cover crops that “go hot,” will also go a long way in helping Minnesota’s next generation willing to take a leap of faith as farmers, manufacturers and marketers of Industrial hemp and its value-added products.
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