$10 million grant backs hemp-focused economic development for 13 Native American tribes

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The Global Hemp Innovation Center of Oregon State University has received a $10 million grant to advance economic development among 13 Native American Tribes by setting up hemp processing operations.

In addition to setting up factories, the project aims to create educational and workforce development opportunities for Native American students and adults in the biobased economy.

“There is still significant interest and potential in industrial uses of hemp,” said Jeffrey Steiner, the Center’s Director. “But it’s critical that investment decisions be based on sound science and business planning to build out and scale up economic development opportunities with hemp, particularly to benefit Tribal nations and other American rural communities.”

Sustainable supply chains

The project, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, is designed to develop sustainable supply chains based on the needs identified by an intertribal business consortium that brings together regional hemp production, processing and manufacturing.

With the new grant, the Global Hemp Innovation Center has been designated by USDA as a Center of Excellence. Oregon State also worked with USDA to develop the Hemp Research Needs Roadmap, which was released last week and identifies the four areas of greatest need in the industry.

The grant builds on a 2022 White House executive order focused on biobased manufacturing, meaning using renewable biological resources from land and sea – such as crops from farms, trees from forests, and fish and animals – to sustainably produce food, building materials, industrial products and energy.

Steiner said hemp-derived materials have the potential to replace those made from oil, natural gas and coal, for use in textiles, nanofibers, electronics, polymer bio-composites and construction materials.

Consortium is planned

The grant has four objectives:

  • Support the development of a Native American-led intertribal biomanufacturing consortium and establish regional business trading networks.
  • Provide education and engagement opportunities for tribal communities by creating curriculum, student internships, and mentorship opportunities and presenting hemp economic development opportunities to tribal decision-makers.
  • Determine optimal manufacturing equipment and facilities, and needed technology providers to establish sustainable manufacturing pipelines for hemp-based materials and products that meet end-product market specifications.
  • Optimize the quality of materials and biomanufacturing efficiencies through hemp breeding, field production, harvest and handling, and processing systems.

13 tribal nations

Oregon State is partnering with 13 Tribal nations within the geographical boundaries of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, Montana and California; three other western U.S. land grant universities, University of California Davis, University of Nevada, Reno and Washington State University; Stone Child College; College of the Redwoods; USDA Agricultural Research Service; 7 Generations LLC; the Indigenous Habitat Institute; the Intertribal Agriculture Council; and hemp and other bio-based product manufactures and businesses.

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