SCOTTSBLUFF – The potential for a new cash crop in the Wyo-Braska region was the topic of a forum last week, hosted by Twin Cities Development at the Panhandle Research and Extension Center.
This forum brought experts together to educate and explore industrial hemp.
This event featured many speakers including Andrea Holmes, Professor at Doane University and Chief Growth Officer for Precision Plant Molecules, and John Lupien, Founder and CEO of Hemp Fast Forward.
A major issue of note was the versatility of the plant. The seed, the flower for oil, the stalk for fiber, and the root of the hemp plant can all be used for various purposes.
“Hemp seed is used for food,” said Holmes. “It’s very healthy. It’s used in protein bars.”
Holmes also expressed that the root could be used as well. “We call them exidates, root exidates,” said Holmes. “Whatever comes out of there actually has a lot of medicinal properties.”
Another possibility is that hemp can spill into livestock production.
“One consideration that’s being kicked around right now is that the seeds can also be used for animal food,” said Holmes.
“Right now it’s just animal bedding,” Lupien said in regards to the current fiber market. “There are two tiers to animal bedding, small animal bedding and large animal bedding.”
Using the seeds for animal food has not been approved by the regulatory body for animal food.
Andrew Bish, CEO of Hemp Harvest Works and COO of Bish Enterprises said, “You can feed it to your cattle, but your cattle can’t enter your stream of commerce.”
Holmes spoke in depth about the cannabinoids and terpenes in hemp.
“Hemp has hundreds of other cannabinoids in there” “CBN, CBG, CBC, CBT, CBL, THCV, all of these are nonpshycotropic, minor and rare cannabinoids that have shown to have health and wellness benefits.”
Holmes also mentioned that terpenes, that give hemp the characteristic smell, also have been shown to have benefits as well. “Hemp is basically a pharmacy, a pharmafactory, that’s how many things are in there,” said Holmes.
Lupien spoke about the definition for fiber hemp. “When we’re talking about fiber hemp, we’re talking about singular stocks,” said Lupien. “The single stock-you have bast fiber which is bark fiber, bast just means bark in German, and core wood.”
One major difference between fiber hemp crops and our standard crops is growing time. “You’re harvesting early when the males flower,” said Lupien. “Fiber crops are in and out pretty quick within 90 to 120 days typically.”
Lupien also stated that industrial hemp could be a “triple-purpose” crop. It could be possible to harvest for the seed, the flower, and the stock.
Matt Haas, Owner of Plains Insurance Brokers said, “We can insure the operation from point A to point Z.” He did state the crop itself was a bit tricky. “There is hail coverage, but the other coverages are not available yet in 2020.”
Combine header manufacturing, hemp licensing, and banking were also discussed.
The speakers also stressed that while there is research out there, we are in the very preliminary stages.
Holmes said, “The state of medicine right now is still at its very immature state. We are just now learning about all of these cannabinoids,” said Holmes. “Human trials on these cannabinoids are super scarce.”
Lupien said in regards to growing for fiber, “Going and just throwing that in and expecting a market, that’s not going to happen.” He explained that there is currently no infrastructure for processing fiber.
However, there is one drug featuring cannabinoids that is FDA approved. “The very first drug that was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with CBD and the drug name is called Epidiolex,” said Holmes. This is used to treat a rare form of children’s epilepsy.
Dawn Wolfe said, “It’s given all of us a good bit of information.”
“It was a very eye-opening experience,” Taylor Copas from Plains Insurance Brokers said. “Farmers and ranchers are the backbone of our community, so it’s nice to watch anything that benefits them, helps them grow, very exciting to see.”
Chance Schilling, from First National Bank North Platte said, “I can’t really finance something I don’t know anything about and so I felt it was important to be here today to learn more about it.”
Kevin Gabel from Minatare said that, based on the information that was presented, that he might give growing hemp a try.
Many of the attendees commented that it was a good choice of speakers because each one of them had different experiences. All of the speakers and event coordinators were very thankful for everyone that attended the forum despite the weather.