Oregon Hemp Farmer Says Startup Going Slow

OREGON:  One of Oregon’s first hemp farmers says a lack of seed is making it tough to get going.

Josephine County Commissioner Cheryl Walker says that fertile seed is expensive and hard to come by, because the federal government prohibits imports. Harvesting machinery is expensive, and there is no plant in Oregon to process the plants into fiber, seed and oil.

“We are at the beginning stages of an industry,” she said. “It will probably be years before you see significant production. It might take five to seven years from that before we have an operating industry.”


Official: Oregon Hemp Industry Not What Was Envisioned

OREGON:  A state agriculture official said Tuesday that Oregon’s hemp industry is not turning out the way lawmakers envisioned, so the department will recommend changes to the law regulating how it is grown.

The law authorizing industrial hemp production in Oregon was written to regulate it as an agricultural crop, with large fields of densely planted hemp grown for fiber, seed and oil, said Lindsay Eng, who oversees the hemp program for the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

Instead, the nine operations inspected by the department this year seem more interested in producing compounds known as CBDs, which don’t get people high, but are believed to have medical benefits. They are also found in marijuana.


Colorado Hemp Grows From Novelty To Industry With Potential

COLORADO:  The hype over hemp that erupted last year during Colorado’s first sensational flirtations with the marijuana look-alike is now starting to live up to expectations. A handful of growers in 2014 planted and harvested small-scale crops that attracted large-scale attention under hemp’s newly legal status.

This year, hype is being replaced with indicators of hemp’s industrial potential as seen in farm fields, factories, retail outlets and university laboratories. Hemp and its byproducts have a wide range of uses in nutrition, clothing, building materials, cosmetics and health.

The sector still is too tiny to rate even an asterisk in most conventional measures such as crop value and retail sales in Colorado.

Hemp also faces lingering perceptual problems. There’s confusion from its visual similarity to marijuana, even though hemp contains little or no THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. The federal government sees no distinction; it considers both illegal under the Controlled Substances Act.

U.S. Firm Buys Manitoba Hemp Company For $133M

CANADA:  A Manitoba company that specializes in hemp products has been bought by a U.S. firm for $132.5 million.

On Monday, Compass Diversified Holdings announced its plan to buy Fresh Hemp Foods Ltd., otherwise known as “Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods.”

Compass Diversified Holdings buys small or middle-market businesses in niche markets, according to the company’s website.

Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods made about $38 million in revenue last year, a 24 per cent increase from the previous year.


U.S. Leads World in Hemp Food, Beauty Sales

CALIFORNIA:  U.S. hemp product sales are growing fast. The Hemp Industries Association (HIA; Summerland, CA) estimates 21.2% retail sales growth in 2014 for hemp food and body care products, putting the 2014 total at $200 million. If other hemp-based products are added to the mix—clothing, auto parts, building materials, etc.—the total 2014 U.S. retail market is even higher at $620 million.

In food and personal care, popular products like non-dairy milk, shelled seed, soaps, and lotions are driving growth. Loosening regulations around hemp agriculture are also helping to spur the market, including the 2014 Farm Bill that enables U.S. hemp growing for research purposes and the 2015-proposed Industrial Hemp Farming Act, which would allow U.S. growing for commercial use.

Sales of food and personal care have steadily trended upward: 7.3% (2011), 16.5% (2012), 24% (2013), and 21.2% (2014). Growth has been quicker in conventional channels (26.8%) than in natural channels (16.3%).

These numbers may even underestimate the market size. The association says that because its 2014 estimates from natural and conventional retailers exclude data from some key sellers like Whole Foods Market and Costco, actual total market sales may in fact be 2.5-times higher. (HIA’s sales estimates are supported by market researcher SPINS.)


Homegrown Hemp On The Horizon?

PENNSYLVANIA:  If state Sens. Mike Folmer and Judith Schwank have their way, the plant that lent its name to East and West Hempfield townships could once again grow here.

“We will shortly be introducing legislation to permit the cultivation and processing of industrial hemp in Pennsylvania,” the two wrote in a recent memo. “Although federal law for decades prohibited the cultivation and growth of cannabis without distinguishing industrial hemp from the psychoactive forms, the federal Farm Bill of 2014 hemp in Pennsylvania now authorizes pilot programs for industrial hemp.”

More than a dozen states permit such production, the memo says, and the proposal would add Pennsylvania to those ranks by establishing an industrial hemp licensing board within the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

Schwank, who represents Berks County, is optimistic about the bill’s chances. It will take a while to figure out how to grow, harvest and market industrial hemp appropriately here, she said, and creating a licensing board is just the first step in that process. She also thinks the debate about legalizing medical marijuana here has raised the public awareness that industrial hemp “has none of the qualities that medicinal cannabis would have.”


Colorado’s First Legal Hemp Crop Comes In Amid Constraints By Fed Laws

COLORADO:  Ask farmers where they procured hemp seeds to plant last spring, and you may get an answer like this one from Bill Billings: “I got them from Mother Nature and God. That’s all I can say.”

Don’t-ask, don’t-tell characterizes Colorado’s newest cash crop. Like its genetic cousin marijuana, hemp is legal under state law. But conflicts with federal law leave the future uncertain for the state’s hemp industry.

The plant looks like marijuana but has little or no THC, the psychoactive ingredient that makes pot smokers high.

The federal government’s prohibition on hemp was partially eased in the Farm Bill passed by Congress this year. Still,  Colorado growers have no legal means to buy starter seed from out of state, nor to sell their harvested raw seed outside of Colorado.