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Could The U.S. Become A Hemp Powerhouse?

The General

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The weed crop is becoming big business, thanks to legalization in several states. But weed has a close cousin that could also become a hot commodity in the U.S. — hemp. Hemp played a big role in the U.S. economy in the 1800s and again during World War II—and it still appears in everything from food to fuel to t-shirts. But most of the hemp used to make those things in the U.S. is imported. That's because like weed, hemp has HTC, which is what gets you high when you smoke it. There's much less of it in hemp (0.3 percent vs. 30 percent), but the mere presence of HTC has made it illegal to grow in most states.

That changed in February, with the passage of the Farm Bill that allowed universities and state departments of agriculture to launch pilot programs for industrial hemp. Some states are jumping at the opportunity: Twelve already have laws to allow for industrial hemp production, which raises the question about whether America could become a hemp power again. Some estimate it could be a $500 million industry in the U.S.

One of those approved states, Kentucky, which hasn't grown industrial hemp in nearly 70 years, has already had a run-in with the feds. The Drug Enforcement Agency recently seized a shipment of 13 varieties of hemp seeds sent from Italy and bound for Louisville. Last week, the seeds were finally released, and two colleges in the state will now be allowed to plant the hemp seeds to test which strains have the most commercial potential. Hemp can grow to about 18 feet tall, and the seeds are crushed into oils and flours that go into various foods, as well as body-care products like soaps and shampoos. Dozens of countries grow hemp, with much of the U.S. hemp coming from Europe, China and Canada.

Long before it became a controversial plant, industrial hemp enjoyed a prodigious history in the U.S. It was used to make sails and riggings, and was even the subject of the Department of Agriculture's propaganda film "Hemp for Victory," which became a rallying cry for farmers to grow the crop for America during World War II. So what will take for the United States to grow its own hemp industry? We asked Anndrea Hermann, president of the Hemp Industries Association and a special committee member of the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance.

The infrastructure is in place
The United States already has food processing plants and farming equipment that customarily handle other crops that will have the ability to work with industrial hemp, she says. "Equipment-wise, it's all there: drying vents [and] seed cleaners, that equipment is very turn-key," says Hermann.

The states that could mass-produce the crop
Whatever happens with the 13 acres of hemp plots that are part of Kentucky's pilot program will be a strong indicator of how the crop can be mass-produced throughout the country, says Hermann. "We could see varieties we were growing in Canada grow very well in North Dakota and in Montana." "We can also see varieties that we are growing in Southern Ontario work well in Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, [and] Vermont," she adds.

Some areas may be better-suited for seed production, others growing for fiber
In Europe, a seed grown in one area and is supplied to another country with a different climate has created specialty farms aimed at growing and harvesting specific parts of the hemp plant. "Now we're going to have an area that specializes in pedigree seed production be able to supply other areas where the agronomics are better-suited for fiber production," says Hermann.

Growing industrial hemp is not growing the marijuana plant
"When you're growing for marijuana, you prevent the male plants from pollination your female plants, and that's going to give you a bud," says Hermann. "When we're growing for industrial hemp, the field is full of male plants with the intention that the male plants will pollinate the female plants and then we'll have more seeds for planting, or we will have grain for processing."

Canada does not want to bogart the industrial hemp industry
Having a thriving industrial hemp industry in America will add security in the marketplace. "As you start to look at launching hemp into mainstream food production, we are going to need that supply stability, especially as we look at North America as a provider of quality hemp materials globally," says Hermann. "There's a big hemp pie out there and there's lots of room for people to have their place in it."


News Moderator - The General @ 420 MAGAZINE ®
Source: Vocativ.com
Author: Daniel Edward Rosen
Contact: Contacts | Vocativ
Website: Could the U.S. Become a Hemp Powerhouse? | Vocativ
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