New York farmers eyeing big benefits from growing hemp

Go down

New York farmers eyeing big benefits from growing hemp

Post  DHF on Wed Jun 27, 2018 6:47 pm

New York farmers eyeing big benefits from growing hemp that doesn't get you high.

When 22-year-old Owen Martinetti and a partner moved from Queens to a farm in Rensselear County, his neighbors were certain the pair were growing "weed."

They are — but not in the sense most people have in mind.

To the surprise of many, they will join about 100 farmers legally planting more than 3,000 acres of cannabis across New York this year.

Five years ago, these growers would have been hauled off to jail. Today, they are being celebrated as entrepreneurs, pioneers in a new and potentially lucrative industry that will provide another crop option for New York's hard-pressed agricultural community.

These aren't the same varieties of hemp being cultivated in Colorado, or other locales where marijuana is legal. This is a hemp strain practically devoid of THC — the chemical that gets marijuana users high. Rather, this is cannabis designed for new, nonpsychoactive uses being developed by a fledgling industry about to bust from the shadows — with one huge caveat.

For the industry to thrive, decades-old laws that lump industrial hemp in with the THC-laden crop need to be addressed. In some parts of the country, growing the non-THC version of hemp or selling industrial hemp-derived products can still attract the attention of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and local law enforcement.

"Botanically, industrial hemp and marijuana are from the same species of plant, Cannabis sativa, but from different varieties or cultivars that have been bred for different uses," said a 2017 Congressional Research Service report on industrial hemp.  "Industrial hemp and marijuana are genetically distinct forms of cannabis."

Industrial hemp contains less than 0.3 percent THC. The largely illegal types contain a far higher proportion of the substance known to create the marijuana high.

"You can smoke industrial hemp for a week and all you will get is a sore throat," said Richard Ball, New York's commissioner of Agriculture and Markets, who has enthusiastically signed on as an industrial hemp booster. "I really think this has incredible potential."

Four years ago, the federal Farm Bill authorized industrial hemp development for research purposes. Kentucky has been at the forefront in adapting to the new industrial hemp environment, promoting it as alternative crop. New York is close behind. But progressing beyond the research stage has been a struggle, stifling a farming segment ready to invest millions into the field, from growing to processing.

Industrial hemp uses are varied. Plant fibers can be used for new and lighter forms of building and insulation material and livestock bedding. Hemp-derived oils can be used in salad dressings, nutritional supplements, beauty products and animal feed. Some even speculate the product can be used in new pharmacological products to treat illnesses, but more research needs to be done.

"It seems to be having a good effect in reducing seizures," said Larry Smart, a member of Cornell University's Hemp Research Team at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Although pharmaceutical uses are promising, the immediate benefits can come from nutritional and personal care products.

"Hemp is the highest digestible form of protein," said Joy Beckerman, New York State Hemp Industry president. "Hemp is really here to serve all of humanity's needs."

Industrial hemp-derived nutritional products contain no soy and are gluten-free, Beckerman said, ticking off many attributes now popular with consumers. It produces high-quality oil, rich in Omega 6 and Omega 3, two elements known to promote better health, a better source than fish oil, she said. There's even a hemp infused wine.

In 2016, the retail value of hemp products sold in the U.S. totaled $688 million, growing from virtually nothing in 2014, based on numbers compiled by the Hemp Business Journal.

In a nod to the industry's rich potential, Gov. Andrew Cuomo committed $10 million in this year's budget to support hemp research, production and processing.  A portion of those funds, $650,000, will be granted to Southern Tier Hemp, a company that will build an $3.2 million hemp processing facility in Broome County.

Researchers from Cornell University, Binghamton University and SUNY Morrisville have paired with cultivators and farmers on hemp research pilot programs.

This week, Martinetti and partners started their first crop on 30-acres in the Town of Berlin, enough to support 65,000 plants.

Thirty pages of paperwork were required to get a license from New York's Department of Agriculture and Markets to grow large quantities of industrial hemp, not to mention $2.4 million in seed money from a collection of investors.

"Once you educate people on the differences, they adapt," Martinetti said, standing out in his Patagonia jacket, denim pants and farm boots at a recent Albany legislative forum on the industrial hemp industry, where most others were in sport jackets and ties. "The everyday farmer will benefit from hemp."

Indeed, development of industrial hemp may assist New York farmers who are now hard-pressed by flat and declining dairy prices.

By Martinetti's estimate, an acre of industrial hemp could yield from $350 to $800, compared to $180 for corn or soybeans. On those numbers alone, the allure of the new crop is evident.

"Farmers will grow anything as long as they can make money off it," said Jeff Williams, director of public policy for the New York Farm Bureau.

It has been 80 years since the last sizable and legal hemp harvest in New York. In the 18th and 19th centuries hemp was a popular crop, with the plant processed to produce rope and fiber, among other items. In fact, Cornell researchers, on rare occasion, still find feral hemp plants growing in upstate New York fields, a remnant from Colonial times.

"Our population at large has had almost no interaction with hemp for decades," Agriculture Commissioner Ball said. "We have to educate people."

For the industry to grow, however, proponents say laws must acknowledge that there are two forms of hemp — the psychotropic drug and the industrial variety.

At a recent Albany hemp panel, Marc Privitera, chief executive and principal engineer with PrePorocess Inc., a grower and processor from Jefferson County, displayed a harvested hemp plant stalk containing no leaves, just a dead plant tube.

"Does this look like marijuana?" he asked.

Yet he still has major limits on his business even though the byproduct of that stalk can be used not as an element to be crushed up and smoked but as ingredient in fiber insulation.

Europe has been involved in hemp production since the 1980s, using the plant largely in building products.

This year, an estimated 25,000 acres of industrial hemp will be cultivated in the United States. The numbers are dwarfed by production in European Union, Canada and China. In China's Yunnan province, 10,000 farmers grow it. Most of the seeds used to produce domestic hemp are imported from Canada and overseas.

The 3,000 New York acres expected for hemp, however, is a small fraction of the total devoted to cash crops. In 2012, the department of Agriculture and Markets reported 136,000 acres of vegetables were planted in the state.

"Bottom line, we're importing hemp," said Peter Shafer of Nanticoke Gardens in Endicott, which grew five acres of industrial hemp last year. A large sign on the edge of the hemp field warned those who believed they may have discovered the mother-lode of the illegal material that these weeds contained less than a fraction of 1 percent of THC.

"If we can grow it competitively and process it competitively it should be a no-brainer," Shafer said. "It's a matter of getting people to the point where they are smart enough to know the difference (between legal and illegal cannabis)."

What's generating the most interest in the entrepreneurial community is the CBD — cannabidiol — derived from the hemp plant.

Most of Martinetti's crop will be processed for CBD. A $3.4 million processing plant in Kirkwood by Southern Tier Hemp will be devoted to extracting CBD from the flowers and buds in the hemp plant.

Supporters claim CBD products can be used to treat opioid addiction, anxiety, sleeplessness and inflammation. There's little scientific evidence to back up the claims now, but that doesn't keep promoters from touting the potential benefits.

Nevertheless, Southern Tier Hemp plans to build a processing plant that meets all Federal Drug Administration standards.

Binghamton University's newly opened School of Pharmacy and Pharmacological Sciences has signed on as a research partner with Southern Tier Hemp to evaluate CBD oil uses in the pharmaceutical industry.

"We are looking at it from the standpoint of it being a wellness product rather than a nutritional product," said Michael Falcone, Southern Tier Hemp co-founder and chief executive.

Hampering development of the industrial hemp industry now is finding a domestic supply. It's growing, but still too small to support the expected growth for an industry just ready to break out.

"Most researchers acknowledge the potential profitability of industrial hemp, but also the potential obstacles to its development," the congressional research report said. "Current challenges facing the industry include the need to re-establish agricultural supply chains, breed varieties with modern attributes, upgrade harvesting equipment, modernize processing and manufacturing, and identify new opportunities."

Acknowledging those current limitations in the domestic supply, Southern Tier Hemp and other start-up processors are attempting to generate interest among farmers, hoping they will devote a share of their land to growing the crop as soon as current legal obstacles are cleared.

"We've had several meetings and workshops with a couple of hundred farmers over the past several months," Falcone said, with the intent to spawn interest in growing enough raw product to supply what he expects to be a 100-person processing operation.

Alhough a weed, hemp does require attention. It needs to grow in soil with good drainage, especially in its formative stages. Plants will develop root rot in soil too wet.

Shafer found that out quickly last year. After his first planting, he had 30 days of rain, decimating a portion of his crop.

"We did have our problems," Shafer said. He's still undecided about this year's crop, waiting to make a decision until after his busy retail season.

Cornell researchers are still trying to determine the best growing regimen for different parts of the state. Planting times will vary depending on geography, earlier in Long Island, later in the Finger Lakes, and even later in the North Country.

Complicating the growing process are the different varieties of industrial hemp — one for fiber uses and the other for CBD — must be kept separate.

"It's going to be tricky for people to understand that you can't grow fiber type hemp next to the CBD type," said Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, D-Endwell, who has been vigorously promoting industrial hemp as a new economic engine for the Southern Tier.

Lupardo has joined state Sen. Thomas O'Mara, R-Elmira, in pushing for reform of state and federal farm legislation to jump start the industrial hemp industry. After a mid-week hemp industry panel held in Albany on May 22, Lupardo and O'Mara concluded they may have to both travel to the nation's capital to do some lobbying on behalf of the industry.

"People, in general, are still very nervous because, technically, it is still a controlled substance," Lupardo said. "We are pushing this as hard as we can. I see this turning into a rebirth of manufacturing."

More importantly, for the dairy farmers suffering from years of depressed milk prices, the advent of a renewed hemp crop offers them the chance to supplement their incomes with a plant that could rejuvenate the family farm.

"There are a lot of good things that can come from the industry," Shafer said. "I'm optimistic for the grower. There's a tremendous opportunity."

www.pressconnects.com/story/news/local/2018/05/30/new-york-hemp-farmers-economic-benefits/628424002/



DHF
Admin

Posts : 923
Join date : 2012-05-10
Age : 67
Location : Florida

View user profile http://whalestail.forumotion.com

Back to top Go down

Back to top

- Similar topics

 
Permissions in this forum:
You cannot reply to topics in this forum