Exploring hemp production in New York

Hemp plants growing in a Cornell research field. Cornell research is determining the best growing practices for the diverse conditions across New York. (Photo provided — Matt Hayes/CALS)

“American farmers are promised a new cash crop … that will not compete with other American products … (and) will provide thousands of jobs for American workers …”

“Hemp … has great tensile strength and durability. It is used to produce more than 5,000 textile products, ranging from rope to fine laces, and the woody “hurds” remaining after the fiber has been removed contain more than 77 percent cellulose, and can be used to produce more than 25,000 products, ranging from dynamite to cellophane.”

“All of these products … can be produced from home-grown hemp … Fish nets, bow strings, canvas, strong rope, overalls, damask tablecloths, fine linen garments, towels, bed linen and thousands of other everyday items …”

“The paper industry offers even greater possibilities.”

” … this new crop can add immeasurably to American agriculture and industry.”

The above statements are all excerpts from Popular Mechanics magazine, February 1938.

For centuries, industrial hemp has been a source of fiber and oilseed used to produce a variety of industrial and consumer products including:

-Grain for food (human, pet, and livestock)

-Oil for food

-Oil for cosmetics and personal care products

-Industrial oil

-Oil and straw/fiber to replace fossil fuels

-Straw/fiber used in making rope, twine, cloth, geo-textiles, paper, carpeting, animal bedding, biodegradable plastics and plastic composites, building materials (e.g. fiberboard, insulation, ceiling tiles, canvas, and hempcrete [a composite of hemp hurd and lime used for building])

Currently, more than 30 nations grow industrial hemp as an agricultural commodity that’s sold on the world market. In the United States, however, growing hemp had been banned under the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 (Industrial hemp and marijuana are different varieties of the same plant species; Cannabis sativa). It remained so until the 2014 U.S. Farm Bill sanctioned hemp production for research by Departments of Agriculture or higher education institutions, in states where the law approved.

The 2018 Farm Bill, which included the full text of the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, made further changes to U.S. industrial hemp production policies. Hemp is now permanently removed from the Controlled Substances Act and, instead, deemed an agricultural commodity. Hemp farmers are now able to purchase seeds and qualify for federal crop insurance. Clear, actionable banking guidelines are available. Manufacturers and retail businesses are expanding their hemp-products portfolios. And New York is well-positioned to become a major producer of industrial hemp.

  Cornell University researchers have been actively involved in this reemerging industry since 2014; when New York state, in collaboration with Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and SUNY Morrisville, implemented a hemp pilot program. They’re supporting New York hemp farming by determining which hemp varieties are the most-reliable cultivars for the wide range of growing conditions found in N.Y. They’re working with farmers, manufacturers, legislators, economic development advisors, entrepreneurs, and investors to develop strategies for, and address challenges to, building a comprehensive, dynamic hemp industry; one that supports and improves local economies and the environment.

Farm business owners and managers often express interest in alternative crops because of their potential to enhance economic viability. This meeting provides an opportunity for interested parties to learn about recent changes in regulations, planting and harvesting protocols, strategies for building a sustainable hemp-supply chain, selling industrial hemp, commercially-available industrial hemp products, and the potential for development of new products.

Presenters include:

-Chris Logue: director, Division of Plant Industry at state Department of Agriculture and Markets

-Kitty O’Neil: CCE regional agronomist, certified crop adviser and leader of the Northern New York Regional Agricultural Team

-Lindsay Pashow: Agricultural business development and marketing specialist.

According to New Frontier Data, a market research firm focused on the cannabis industry, sales for hemp-based products in the U.S. totaled roughly $1.1 billion in 2018. They expect U.S. sales to more than double by 2022, largely in part to demand for CBD products.

CBD (Cannabidiol) is marketed for everything from helping to relieve pain and inflammation to reducing stress and anxiety. It’s being sold in coffee shops, department stores, pharmacy chains, mom and pop shops, and at farmers markets. Scientists are also examining whether CBD might help in treating opioid addiction.

The Arcview Group, an Oakland, California-based cannabis investment and research firm, believes that CBD products will outpace legal marijuana sales in the United States within five years.

The era of hemp prohibition is over. And CBD is just the tip of the iceberg.

Imagine! American raw materials grown on American farms used to make an extensive and varied assortment of environmentally-friendly consumer and industrial products; all manufactured in the USA. It’s about time!

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If you go….

What: Informational Industrial Hemp Grower meeting offered by Cornell Cooperative Extension

When: 1 to 4 p.m. April 25

Where: Franklin County Courthouse, 355 W. Main St.

Malone, NY 12953.

Cost: $5

Information: 518-483-7403

Registration: franklin.cce.cornell.edu

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