Considering Colorado’s historical importance to the hemp food movement which helped create hemp’s first widely-adopted, sustainable billion-dollar segment, it would be wise to use state and federal grants to further develop the hemp food industry there, synergistically creating a market for their seed to be produced by farmers in the eastern plains, western slope, and San Luis Valley.
The economic leverage of such a grant would be greater than the current fiber projects that don’t create markets, just commodities which hope to someday see one.
Colorado could maintain its historical standing in the global marketplace by concentrating on hemp grain for food, producing the main ingredient for food companies as well as those wanting a finished consumer product.
Growing seed will produce many times more weight in stalk than seed, which provides the third leg of the hempen “Rocky Mountain Stool” along with hemp grain production and hemp food processing. Integrating valorized fiber management with farmers can add an income stream as well as be a model for responsible hempseed production globally. That might include a decorticator to separate the fibers into its hurd (short fiber) and bast (long fiber) components, both valuable and could be converted into value-added products in the state such as hempcrete, rope, textiles, animal bedding, or even supercapacitors and batteries.
Adding that income might also be able to reduce the cost of seed to the companies processing it into food. Since shelling takes 2.5 pounds to make one, any reduction on the input side is magnified on output, possibly providing Colorado with a competitive price advantage in the global food market. Pressing for oil is five-to-one, so it’s twice as dramatic. For every pound of oil produced, about four pounds of protein powder is made, again at that lower input cost, adding yet another potential income stream. Protein powder was once a waste byproduct hemp oil companies paid pig farmers to haul away daily, now it can be another income stream from what was considered a nuisance waste.
A seed cleaning, shelling, and oil pressing facility could produce the “primary hemp foods” for sale to those using them to make “secondary hemp foods” such as Nepra and Hemp Way, or sold as-is branded to consumers. Who doesn’t love Colorado? The branding of hemp foods made in Colorado from hempseed grown in Colorado could be powerful.
But hemp will not succeed without government help; we’ve seen that in Canada and elsewhere. This is a project, which has enormous potential to produce returns and build acres the fastest, with a ready, proven, legal market and ideal growing conditions in a traditional food-farming state. The processors are already here, the market is already here, all they need is a little help tying it all together. For a company to succeed in hemp and rise out of Colorado to feed the world in a big way, it’ll take close cooperation between farmers and processors. But to start that off requires grant money from the USDA, the state, and private sources.
This project could enhance food security in the state, easily allow under-served communities to start businesses, and could inspire young people to return to the farm. The Value The Seed and Hemp Exemption recommendations loosening irrational federal restrictions on farmers would help this situation immensely.
Seed and fiber need to work together in the future, since where there is hempseed there is way more fiber, and often where there is fiber there is seed. Some fiber uses require harvesting before flowering and thus no seed, while other fiber applications do not. These projects need to allow farmers to harvest and process both in order to maximize returns. Cannabinoids should not be an explicit part of the project, although it is understood trichomes (CBD and essential oil) may be harvested as a tertiary processing stream resource.
Therefore, USDA should make a grant to any domestic entity for projects:
- Able to sign up enough farms for 100,000 acres minimum 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 a weak 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 other than of the actual seed; must be phyto Cannabis, any subspecies
- Entities must have a 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:
“The Marshall Plan was a U.S. program providing aid to Western Europe following the devastation of World War II. It was enacted in 1948 and provided more than $15 billion to help finance rebuilding efforts on the continent. The brainchild of U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall, for whom it was named, it was crafted as a four-year plan to reconstruct cities, industries and infrastructure heavily damaged during the war and to remove trade barriers between European neighbors—as well as foster commerce between those countries and the United States.”