USDA: Time For Action on Hemp… Still

For U.S. hemp it’s time to get real, time for action not platitudes. Only legal 4 years now, acreages harvested are falling dramatically two years running, 1/3 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 Types 1 and 3, so no one wants hemp pollen seeding their bud. Idaho was the last state to legalize hemp and recently 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. Meanwhile, seed for food is hemp’s first billion-dollar segment and 90% of Canadian hemp today. Food is not only the largest existing hemp segment, it’s also the most profitable and easiest way for existing businesses to “get into hemp.” Not even necessarily requiring land, equipment, or a factory to get started, hempseed foods have the most potential to grow, democratize and diversify the hemp industry, making it the most accessible segment for bootstrapped start-ups.
As we’ve seen in China, Canada, and Europe, the hemp industry will not succeed without government grants for processing infrastructure and basic science.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, but 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 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:

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.