Leveraging Resources for Industry Development

Leveraging Resources for Industry Development

Hemp has begun tapping into national, regional, and state agricultural resources that ultimately will help shape the course of each segment’s development.  On a grassroots level, the Land Grant Universities have done what they do best, engaged producers in their community, and start to add some structure to the development of the sector.  Agronomics are the foundation that any hemp commerce will rely on, and ultimately, along with hemp pricing, will influence profitability.

We are years away yet from mastering growing, harvesting, handling, and storage techniques.  Disciplined research trials to address producer challenges will help to advance production techniques in the same way it has blueberry or cattle producers.  Extension personnel have varying levels of engagement in hemp, but some have been very enthusiastic about understanding the challenges producers face.  Colorado, Kentucky, Oregon, and even Washington have all hosted some hemp research in recent years.  Only now is it really beginning to gain traction, with more collaborations, more industry engagement.

Colorado State and Oregon State have both benefitted from substantial funding from alumni.  Colorado State received $1.5 million from College of Natural Sciences alumna Leslie Buttorff, who started Panacea Life Sciences, a CBD products company for humans and pets, that recently was acquired by 22nd Century, a biotech/tobacco company.  OSU’s Global Hemp Innovation Center (GHIC) was gifted $1 million by Oregon CBD, a high-cannabinoid hemp seed company started by the Crawford brothers, Seth and Eric, both OSU graduates.

All states don’t have these types of connections in the hemp space, but there are more examples of generous donors eager to advance institutional research.  Beyond funding, engagement by regional or state organizations like the US Hemp Growers Association, iHemp Michigan, Midwest Hemp Council, or the newly formed Southeast Hemp Association will help to advance progress in agronomics as well as downstream market issues.  There are many more of these organizations, like the Oregon Industrial Hemp Growers Association or the TN Growers Coalition, where key people have devoted considerable resources to advancing hemp policy.

At Monday’s Southern Oregon Hemp Forum, Jay Noller, director of the GHIC and Professor Emeritus at OSU, discussed some of his high-level activities that are creating opportunities for Oregon hemp producers.  Noller praised Oregon growers, saying that their craft flower in both quality and yield eclipses that of the rest of the US, with few exceptions.  Noller has tasked himself with creating some of the framework that will allow for exports of Oregon’s finest flower or other derivatives.  He acknowledges that flower is a challenging market because of policy issues, citing New York’s recent move to ban flower sales.

Hempseed producers in Montana completed the process to initiate a checkoff program for hemp in the state, making them the first in the US.  Now Hemp Industries Association (HIA) and   the National Industrial Hemp Council have collaborated to explore more checkoff opportunities for hemp.  Checkoff programs assess a fixed portion of participant’s sales to fund marketing and research.  Got Milk, Pork: The Other White Meat, and other marketing campaigns were funded in part by checkoff dollars.

Institutional leadership is not exclusively found at the Land Grants.  Small college programs around the US have resources that the big guys don’t, like flexibility.  Thomas Jefferson University has a unique relationship with Australian financier Barry Lambert, chairman of Ecofibre Limited and Ananda Hemp.  The former has engaged Dr Ron Kander, the founding Dean of the Kanbar College of Design at the university, through its fiber division, Hemp Black. Kander specializes in materials and has helped to develop a number of patents for hemp-based textiles and has helped Ecofibre bring hemp-based products to market this year.

The latter, Ananda Hemp, is the cannabinoid division of Ecofibre.  Lambert and his wife had a granddaughter with Dravet Syndrome, and in addition to starting a CBD company, have donated at least $5 million to Jefferson to start the Lambert Center for the Study of Medicinal Cannabis and Hemp.  There is much to be said for intelligent humans applying themselves to problem solving, or product development, or both, when they happen to align.  Leadership in this new hemp industry comes in many different forms, and colleges like Jefferson, or Dakota College at Bottineau, Murray State, in KY, or even The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville, VA are well positioned to help individual producers, and also advance an entirely new commodity.

Interest in hemp only continues to grow.  Fiber and hempseed segments have barely started in the US, and although current projects in fiber represent a very long ROI, investment and progress are evident with projects like IND’s planned decorticator in MT.  The advancement of industrial hemp segments will rely on a remarkably diverse group of stakeholders that operate both though traditional agricultural programs, as well as private, non-traditional one’s like the Lambert School in Pennsylvania

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