Thursday, April 15, 2021

Laura Drotleff

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Montana authorizes hemp seed for animals

Proponents of using hemp in animal feed have seen another milestone with the approval of a Montana proposal authorizing hemp food ingredients to be marketed as commercial feed. Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte signed the bill this week, clearing the way for farmers to use hemp in animal feed for pets and horses, and for other livestock once approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, the agency that gives federal approval for animal feed ingredients.

California backs off narrower THC testing window

California is backing off a plan to shorten the window for THC testing in hemp crops after farmers cried foul on changes that made the nation’s largest cannabis market more restrictive than other states in terms of hemp-production rules. But the state is still mulling a ban on smokable hemp. California announced emergency changes Monday to extend the hemp harvest window from within 15 days after sampling to within 30 days. The longer time frame matches new national guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The national guidelines took effect in March, though states are given permission to enact tougher requirements.

How Patagonia is helping build a domestic hemp fiber supply chain

Fiber is hot among hemp producers looking for new markets – especially now that prices have bottomed out for hemp flower and biomass. But the lack of fiber buyers and the sector’s immature supply chain have industry observers warning that hemp growers may get ahead of themselves and end up with yet another glut. California-based outdoor apparel company Patagonia and the state of Colorado are hoping to help change that by bringing together farmers, machinery manufacturers, textile producers and hemp researchers. “There’s nothing about political parties in hemp. It’s just a solid business opportunity, a solid environmental opportunity, good for farmers, good for our health, good for the economy, good for sustainability,” Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said in a video Patagonia released about the “Bring Hemp Home” project late last month.

US EPA grants $100,000 to support Washington hemp bricks manufacturer

Federal environmental regulators keen on developing sustainable building options have awarded a grant worth nearly $100,000 to a Washington company that makes bricks out of industrial hemp. Earth Merchant, based Vancouver, received one of 24 grants through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Small Business Innovation Research program for its hemp-based OlogyBricks.

UK’s Tenacious Labs launches ‘buy-and-build’ CBD brand with US acquisition

A London-based “buy-and-build” global cannabinoid group launched this week after its acquisition of Denver-based CBD brand Press Pause, a brand focused on developing CBD products for women. Tenacious Labs, co-founded by CEO Nicholas Morland and CCO Adrian Clarke, aspires to become a leading consumer-centric global cannabinoid group.

Herbal products association launches resource to standardize hemp terminology

The American Herbal Products Association, a national trade association within the herbal products industry, has published a new resource to support standardized terminology within the nascent hemp industry and the cultivation, processing, manufacturing and labeling of hemp and its derived products. The group says its Hemp Lexicon is a reference tool for the hemp industry, as well as the federal, state, tribal and other jurisdictions that oversee hemp production and manufacturing,” to provide guidance and encourage clear, consistent communication.”

Hemp investor agrees to plead guilty to federal charges in investment scheme

An Indianapolis businessman plans to plead guilty to running a fraudulent investment scheme and improperly using $4 million to bankroll hemp companies. Federal prosecutors said Wednesday that George S. Blankenbaker Jr., 54, had agreed to plead guilty to two counts of federal wire fraud and one count of money laundering, the Indianapolis Business Journal reported.

Exclusive: Hemp foods are a natural fit in the wellness space, says Manitoba Harvest founder Mike Fata

The wellness trend has taken hold among consumers, creating ample opportunities for hemp entrepreneurs. But what does this trend mean for foods made from hemp grain, and how can business leaders capitalize on consumers’ increasing interest in their health and wellness?

Holding and pre-treating hemp and marijuana young plants before transplanting

(This is the fourth in a series focused on cultivation planning for marijuana and hemp growers. The latest installment is available here.) Conditions aren’t always ideal for hemp and marijuana growers to transplant young plants. Inclement weather, delayed labor or transplanting equipment and a host of other delays can leave cultivators facing a harrowing wait to get tender transplants in the ground. But this farming problem isn’t unique to cannabis. Hemp and marijuana growers can look to proven strategies to keep the young plants healthy until conditions allow for a successful crop.

Project aims to build domestic hemp fiber supply chain – starting with 2,021 T-shirts

The U.S. hemp textiles supply chain has to start somewhere, so it might as well begin with T-shirts, according to one North Carolina-based apparel manufacturer. Developing a domestic hemp fiber supply chain in the U.S. could help create a transparent, sustainable, profitable industry that will pay farmers a living wage for their crops while avoiding humanitarian crises internationally. That’s the goal for a new project that was launched during a virtual hemp industry event in late February by Eric Henry, president of Burlington, North Carolina-based clothing manufacturer T.S. Designs.

Industry to FDA: No evidence of liver disease or elevated liver function in CBD study participants

Early results of an industry-sponsored, human-safety study on hemp-derived CBD consumption show no evidence of liver toxicity or disease in its 839 participants. The study also found no increase in the prevalence of elevated liver-function numbers compared to a group with a similar incidence of medical conditions. Those results were provided by Validcare, a Denver-based medical research firm heading up the study to fill in research blanks about over-the-counter hemp-derived CBD products. The FDA commissioned the study as part of its request for scientific data to aid the agency in determining the appropriate path for hemp-derived CBD products.

USDA launches $6 billion pandemic assistance program to serve more farmers

Federal agriculture officials are opening up more economic assistance to farmers feeling the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and related market disruptions. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on Wednesday announced a new $6 billion initiative – the USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers – aimed at reaching more agricultural producers than in previous COVID-19 aid programs.

Key FDA official, CBD task force leader Amy Abernethy resigns

The process for regulating CBD was dealt another setback Tuesday with the resignation of Dr. Amy Abernethy, who will leave the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in mid- to late April.

How to get hemp and marijuana young plants from the greenhouse into the ground

(This is the third installment in a series focused on cultivation planning for marijuana and hemp growers. The second installment is available here.) Outdoor cannabis producers often have a brief window to get their seedlings and clones transplanted during planting season. Here are a few tips for marijuana and hemp cultivators who are sourcing young plants to consider: Communicating with the providers of young plants to ensure timely delivery. Setting up a staging area near the field where they will be planted, so the plants can acclimate to the environment. Harden off plants to acclimate them to outdoor conditions.

USDA grants nearly $300,000 for hemp cattle-feed study

Oregon researchers will add cattle to their hemp animal feed studies under a new federal grant. The U.S. Department of Agriculture granted nearly $300,000 to researchers at Oregon State University studying how to implement the safe use of hemp byproducts into livestock diets, to maximize their potential nutritional properties. The Oregon State study earned $299,950 in an $8.5 million chunk of funding awarded for 29 research and Extension grants from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. It was the only hemp-specific research project to be funded.

Hemp farmers brace for changes as USDA’s final rules take effect

(Photo courtesy of Asheville Hemp Project) More than two years after Congress passed the 2018 Farm Bill, making hemp a legal agricultural commodity, farmers finally have one national set of rules for growing the crop. And they officially take effect Monday. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced in early March that its final hemp production rules had been reviewed and were cleared to take effect as planned. That means as of Monday, all states, tribes and territories operating under an approved USDA plan through the 2018 Farm Bill must comply with the final rules. But as the final national hemp production rules replace a confusing, state-by-state patchwork of guidelines, hemp growers might wonder how they can ensure compliance.

Northeast hydroponics retailer is latest buy for cannabis grow-supply firm Grow Generation

A Denver-based cannabis grow-supply firm has completed its seventh acquisition in 2021, this time purchasing a hydroponics retailer in New England. GrowGeneration said Wednesday that it is acquiring Aquarius Hydroponics, a large-scale hydroponics retailer in Agawam, Massachusetts. Aquarius Hydroponics operates a 14,600-square-foot operation selling indoor and outdoor garden supplies, with nearly $5 million in annual revenues.

Top points to consider before fertilizing and amending soil on outdoor hemp and marijuana farms

(This is the second installment in a series focused on cultivation planning for hemp and marijuana growers. Read the first installment here.) Crop nutrition is crucial to a successful start for hemp and marijuana farms. Depending on the cultivator’s location and preferred style of growing, there are several factors to consider before choosing the right mix. While conventional macro- and micronutrients commonly used in commercial agriculture work well for cannabis,  growers who want to incorporate sustainable practices may consider adopting no-till practices and planting cover crops to build up the soil’s microbiology, which can ultimately reduce inputs while saving money.  

Arizona hemp farmers see crop losses from Pythium in drip-irrigated fields

Farmers in Arizona found out the hard way that drip irrigation may not be the way to go for growing hemp crops in the state’s arid climate. During the 2020 growing season, 85% of drip-irrigated hemp plants in Yuma and Graham Counties showed symptoms of crown and root rot, a disease that leads to leaf yellowing and browning, sudden wilting and plant death. Agronomists at the University of Arizona said the pathogen causing crop losses was Pythium aphanidermatum, commonly known as water mold, which thrives in damp environments and can infect hemp at any growth stage. Crown and root rot on hemp is often found in heavy soils with poor drainage, particularly in hot climates using plastic mulch and excessive irrigation. According to the agronomists’ study, infection can be minimized by ensuring crops are grown in soils with good drainage, regulating irrigation to prevent oversaturation and removing mulch to reduce soil moisture. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has not yet approved fungicides to help farmers manage Pythium on hemp. In 2019, farmers experienced off-the-charts crop losses after hemp crops exceeded 0.3% THC levels, which state authorities attributed to the hot climate. Hemp acreage fell from 5,430 acres in 2019 to 1,130 acres in 2020.

New US economic stimulus bill allocates $4 billion in debt relief for farmers of color

Socially disadvantaged farmers including those in the hemp industry are in line for new debt-relief funds in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan of 2021. The legislation, which passed in the U.S. Senate Saturday and awaits changes and a final vote in the House, directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make payments to Black farmers and farmers of color that are equal to 120% of all direct loans and USDA-backed loans. The measure defines eligible farmers as anyone in “a group whose members have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice.” The extra funds are meant to cover taxes from debt. Loans from USDA help farmers buy supplies and equipment needed for production, but they haven’t always been equitably distributed. The USDA had developed a backlog of more than 14,000 discrimination complaints by 2009, many from Black farmers who claimed that the agency had withheld loans because of their race, according to The Counter, an independent food systems newsletter. Civil rights leaders criticized President Biden’s nomination of newly confirmed Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, because of his role in the USDA’s foreclosure on Black farmers and inequitable farm loan distribution during his previous stint during the Obama Administration. The provision in the relief bill is similar to the Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act, a bill introduced in the Senate last month by Democratic Sens. Raphael Warnock of Georgia and Cory Booker of New Jersey. Proponents of the debt relief measure say that it’s a good first step to restore the 85% drop in Black-owned agricultural land over the past century, according to the Pew Charitable Trust. Another pending Senate bill, the Justice for Black Farmers Act, would provide more support for Black farmers, including issuing land grants to make up for land losses, as well as allocating additional debt relief and research funds at historically Black colleges and universities.

Planning Ahead: Preparing hemp fields for growing season

(This is the first of a series focused on planning for best cultivation practices for hemp and marijuana growers. Look for additional stories on handling young plants, stocking up on supplies, fertigation and other topics throughout the year.) Outdoor hemp and marijuana growers are getting ready to get their crops in the ground in the coming weeks, but before they sow seeds or plant clones or seedlings, it’s important to get a good start with proper soil testing, conditioning and preparation. Crop yield and performance is impacted by field selection and soil preparation, making where and how cultivators grow just as important as what they grow. And generally, because marijuana and hemp crops are such similar crops, the same soil health practices work for both. “I think the difference in THC and hemp when it comes to production and soil prep is really the market value,” said Skip Newcomb, farm director at East Fork Cultivars in Takilma, Oregon, a producer that grows both hemp and lower-THC marijuana for CBD production. “That’s the big difference for us is, we put more into it, knowing that we’re going to get that out of it, but essentially it’s the same exact plant – it grows the same, it looks the same, although I would say THC genetics sometimes do have a little more vigor.” Soil type Growers – especially those who produce other crops – may be tempted to pick their worst field to produce hemp or marijuana, because they may consider it risky crop. But choosing a flat field is key to good yield at harvest, especially if mechanical harvesters will need to navigate that terrain, said Eric Singular, director of development and communications with International Hemp, a hemp genetics company in Denver. Young plants need enough moisture when they’re first planted to ensure that seeds can germinate and emerge – but once crops are established, too much moisture can be detrimental. Cannabis doesn’t like “wet feet,” which is to say it doesn’t like to sit in water, so one of the first things growers need to assess is their soil type in the field and the drainage situation. Ideally, growers will have porous, loamy soil, but hemp and marijuana can grow in any type of soil, as long as it has proper drainage, according to Scott Propheter, a farmer and CBD executive in North Carolina. “I’ve seen fantastic crops grown on straight red clay. I’ve seen fantastic crops grown on extremely sandy soils. But I think the basic principle that that applies across all of them is, they were well-drained fields,” Propheter said. Testing, testing The first step growers need to take to get ready for growing season is order soil tests, which can reveal information such as soil alkalinity, nutritional imbalances and contaminants like heavy metals and pesticides. Many growers test soils after crops are harvested in the fall, so they can take steps to add any necessary amendments or plant cover crops before the winter, according to Singular. Late winter to early spring, when fields are staring to dry out, is also a good time to test soil. But be sure to account for enough time to order soil amendments and have them delivered, as this can take some time depending on the location of the grow. According to Singular, test fields in the spring when the temperature is around 40 degrees Fahrenheit to determine soil temperature. In southern regions of the U.S., some hemp growers learned the hard way in 2020 that direct sowing seeds in the ground when the soil temperature is 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit means that the seeds won’t germinate, “because the seeds just bake in the ground,” Singular says. Testing for contaminants such as residual pesticides and heavy metals is important for flower, biomass and grain crops – especially for growers pursuing U.S. Department of Agriculture organic certification for hemp or a comparable local certification for marijuana – although some states don’t require it, even though they test crops for contaminants after harvest, said Newcomb. Noel Garcia, chief operating officer and head crop production consultant with TPS Lab in Edinburg, Texas, said he advises growers to test for heavy metals before they plant anywhere. “I can’t stress enough how important a soil test is,” Garcia said. “Hemp is a huge bio-accumulator, meaning it accumulates heavy metals, and a lot of times people would totally disregard that before they even considerate planting or even worse before they even consider buying a piece of property.” He said there are some areas in Texas and other parts of the country that have high levels of arsenic or cadmium; growers may not realize that until they harvest and try to sell. “Then the processor will send a sample to the lab and test for heavy metals … and come to find out you’re very high in arsenic and cadmium, and now you lost your entire crop, and you won’t be able to sell it.” Weed-free fields Planting in “clean” fields is another key success strategy, though there are few herbicides, if any, that are registered for use on hemp through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – and none cleared for use on marijuana crops – so growers don’t have the option to “burn down” weeds with chemicals, like farmers do before planting traditional crops, to ensure a clean field before planting. Growers can naturally mitigate weeds by planting as early as possible, to let the plants get established before weeds start growing. “As soon as the soil temperatures get warm, if weeds are growing in the field, that means the crop could be growing in the field,” Singular said. “If you’re getting in the ground right when those soil temperatures are starting to go north of 40 degrees, you’re going to beat the weeds, and that is by far the most environmentally friendly way to manage your weeds, just getting in early and getting that canopy established,” Singular said. For grain and fiber hemp varieties, growers can also try planting 5 to 10 more pounds of seed per acre than they need to cut out room for the weeds to grow. Laura Drotleff can be reached at [email protected]

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