Industrial hemp production discussions begin in Wyo
Gov. Mark Gordon signed House Bill 171/House Enrolled Act 110 following the General Session of the Wyoming Legislature this year, and since then, activity related to hemp has geared up in Wyoming.
In the wake of the bill, the Wyoming Department of Agriculture (WDA) continues to develop a plan, rules, a fee schedule, applications and other necessary documents to implement a regulatory program for industrial hemp. WDA began working on these documents during the session.
“With the signing of HB 171/HEA 110, WDA had 30 days to submit a plan to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to request delegated authority for the regulation of industrial hemp,” says WDA.
“With the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill and the work of the legislature throughout the session, we have been working hard on the industrial hemp program to make sure we are ready when the time comes to implement a program here in Wyoming,” said Doug Miyamoto, director of the Wyoming Department of Agriculture. “If we are legally able to do it, we are anxious to start a hemp program in Wyoming to provide more opportunities for our producers and processors with this productive, diversifying permitted crop across the state.”
“Hemp is a very interesting topic, and it’s very timely right now in light of changes in the farm bill,” says University of Wyoming Extension Educator Caitlyn Youngquist. “Hemp has not been legally grown in the U.S. since 1970.”
Hemp, or Cannabis sativa, is an herbaceous flowering plant that comes from eastern Asia, and Youngquist says there are many different cultivars with a variety of different compounds.
“We have a variety of things in this plant that can be used in a variety of ways,” she continues. “We have cultivars that produce fiber, ones that produce seed for either food or oil and other cultivars that produce cannabidiol, which is a health and therapy product.”
In addition, recreational Cannabis species are high in tetrahydrocannabinol, which provides the “high.”
“Generally, when we talk about industrial hemp, we’re talking about plants that produce fiber, seed or cannabidiol oil,” she says.
Hemp products are used in livestock feed and seed, fibers, ropes, health products, animal beddings, fabric, insulation, building products, as bioplastic and more.
Youngquist explains, “There are a lot of different uses of this plant, depending on what cultivar is grown and how it is processed.”
Hemp plants are dioecious, meaning they have both male and female plants. The male and female plants have different uses because of different characteristics of the plant.
“We don’t have an open market in this country,” Youngquist says. “The 2014 Farm Bill opened up the ability to grow hemp at research institutions through states.”
At that point, several states began growing hemp under research authority from USDA. The handful of states with authority have some data on the value of each variety.
“The average wholesale price, in dollars per pound, of the fiber, seed and flower is very different,” she says. “The flower, which we get cannabidiol (CBD) oil from, has an average price of $28 a pound. Seed is only worth about nine dollars a pound, but fiber is only worth 10 cents a pound.”
Younquist continues, “We see through all states that the flower is the most valuable to sell, but the plant, of course, would produce more pounds of fiber than flowers.”
Data on hemp product sales imported from China and Canada show that personal care products take up approximately 25 percent of sales. CBD accounts for about 20 percent, and industrial applications have approximately the same sales. Textiles account for 14 percent of imported hemp, and 20 percent goes to food.
“It’s interesting to look at where hemp goes in this country,” she says
Trials done at Colorado State University showed that hemp grows rapidly, with plants beginning to emerge in late May. The plants grow rapidly, with flowers beginning to emerge by July. Harvest is traditionally in late August.
“The male flower is highly attractive to pollinators,” Youngquist says.
She continues, “The agronomics of hemp includes a little bit from Canada and a little bit from those states that are producing hemp, but it is pretty limited.”
Hemp can be grown on marginal ground with low inputs, but low yield results.
“If we want to get a maximum yield for the crop with inputs, we need to treat it like corn, according to what we have gathered,” Youngquist says. “It could be used mixed in with cover crops or forage crops, and it has some soil building potential.”
With WDA working on a plan, USDA recently stated they will hold state plan submissions until their rules are promulgated in the fall of 2019 and that states may continue to operate under the provisions of the 2014 Farm Bill. The state is currently assessing our legal authority to issue permits prior to USDA review of our industrial hemp plan.
“Since USDA is not approving state plans until the fall, the most important thing right now is to make sure we have the legal authority to permit and regulate hemp under the provisions of the 2014 Farm Bill and existing statutes in Wyoming,” said Miyamoto. “We are working with the Attorney General’s Office and Gov. Gordon’s office to answer this question but will continue developing the program, so we are ready to go when we are legally able to start permitting.”
In the meantime, WDA will continue the rulemaking process for the program, working toward obtaining and installing testing equipment at the WDA Analytical Services Lab and training employees for regulating this new permitted crop.
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org