By Richard Rose
For U.S. hemp it’s time to get real, time for action, not platitudes. Only legal three years now, acreages harvested are falling, a third of the crops are noncompliant, bankruptcies frequent, and farmers and processors are losing interest and money fast.
We need to make the pivot from hemp for cannabinoids to hemp for the other 24,999 uses.
If USDA has $20 million just to gather data that seed vendors should rightly be gathering instead, then this project is a no-brainer. Besides, doesn’t AOSCA certification mean anything, anymore? If so, those cultivars should be compliant and productive across the country with no further expensive research needed to validate them at taxpayer expense.
Especially since those data are mostly for states hostile to traditional field hemp, with its male pollen making enemies downwind. California has long been the most hostile, read about that here, here, here, here, here, and here.
Like in California, Washington hemp was sabotaged years ago by those purportedly on our side; today it is so non-existent as to almost be an oxymoron. Oregon is all about that Type 1 and 3, so no one wants hemp pollen seeding their bud. Idaho was the last state to legalize hemp and previously wanted to ban all Cannabis, and Montana already has an entity duplicating this work.
That $20 million could have financed two seed and/or fiber processing plants, which is where the bottlenecks actually are.
Seed and fiber need to work together in the future, since where there is hempseed there is fiber, and often where there is fiber there is seed. Some fiber uses require harvesting before flowering and thus no seed, but most fiber applications do not. These projects need to allow farmers to harvest and process both in order to maximize returns. Cannabinoids are not an explicit part of this project, although it is understood trichomes (CBD and essential oil) may be harvested as a tertiary processing stream resource.
Focus the grants
Therefore USDA should make a grant to any domestic entity for projects:
- Able to sign up enough farms for 500,000+ acres for seed and fiber processing before launching
- A minimum of $50 million up to $750 million per project, amount decided by a team just for this purpose, up to and including 100%
- For production of primary materials and/or branded CPGs
- It must be able to produce and process both the stalk and seed, processing all of both except for normal losses, not cannabinoids
- Should be used as a food security project, and as a model to duplicate elsewhere
- USDA shouldn’t limit it by state but entities can, to create a state-branded line
- Foreign ownership limited to 5% maximum
- Any type of entity legal structure
- Project must last 15 years minimum
- Farmers must not be in an asynchronous position to the entity, best if farmer-owned
- All pricing forecasts must be fair to the farmer and account for transport costs
- Mandating certified varieties-only discourages innovation
- Genetic and ownership transparency
- Genetic engineering such as CRISPR allowed, but not fermentation; must be phyto Cannabis, any subspecies
- Entities must have track record for farming or processing, but not marijuana
- Goal should be 500,000 acres, then 10 million acres, then 100 million (equaling current corn and soy production)
Make it easy to apply, with few hurdles. Frame it as a “Marshall Plan for Hemp.” It’s fitting as it heals generations of “regulatory bombing” of the hemp community by the federal government.
Hemp industry veteran Richard Rose is a consultant who writes and produces “The Richard Rose Report.”