Colorado Agriculture Director Has Big Plans for Hemp

Marijuana might win Colorado points, but it’s hemp that will make the state a real winner in this game. As the country’s leader in acreage devoted to hemp farming over the past two years, Colorado has a real head start on the growing industry, and it’s Kate Greenberg’s job to keep us in the lead.

The new director of the Colorado Department of Agriculture is responsible for many things, including overseeing the state’s industrial hemp program, which churns out the plants responsible for all of those CBD products we love so much. But keeping things on course has it challenges, such as looming federal regulations and more domestic competition thanks to the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized industrial hemp farming at the federal level.

To learn more about the future of hemp in Colorado, we chatted with Greenberg about her goals for the plant.

Westword: How much did you know about hemp before taking the new job?

Kate Greenberg: I knew very little. I am, like a lot of us in the world of agriculture, on the learning curve. In the policy universe, I had interfaced with hemp through the Farm Bill. In my last life, with the National Young Farmers Coalition, we were working on ag policy though the Farm Bill, and definitely crossed paths with what was going on with hemp. So I was tracking it through the end of 2018, but in terms of what has taken off since the Farm Bill was signed, I think it’s a whole new universe for everyone. So we’re getting up to speed and ahead of the curve as fast as possible as we build a new industry.

How educated are Colorado farmers about science and state laws surrounding hemp?

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In my mind, that’s a bit of a complex question. You’ve got a lot of producers who are growing hemp and probably growing other things. But their livelihood is farming, and they make money off the land. Those farmers get how it works, how hemp works, how hemp is grown and the state regulations they need to follow.

I think what we’re seeing now is a lot folks who haven’t farmed before, who haven’t made a living off farming, coming into this boom and trying their hands at it. There’s so much excitement and momentum around it, I think a lot of folks are coming in without farming skills. So you get all ends of the spectrum in terms of farming expertise, both on how to grow the plant and how to navigate state and federal rules.

Growers have regulatory uncertainty because it’s a whole new industry, and one thing we’re hearing is that in order to grow the industry to the potential we and our governor would like to see it grow to, it would require more regulatory certainty. In that regard, I think it’s less about educating — even though we still care about educating — than creating that certainty about what they can do within that regulatory framework.

That’s an interesting observation about the inexperienced trying their hands at farming hemp because of how popular it is. Have you seen this boom mentality with any other crops?

I’ve seen it in various ways. I think hemp is unique, because folks are getting into it because they think they can make money. Most farmers don’t get into farming because they see dollar signs everywhere — this is not the business to get into if you think you’re going to get rich. The people I’ve seen and worked with for many years who have gotten into farming years ago got into because they love the land, they love to grow food, they love the place they live, and they love working for themselves. Those are the reasons most people get into ag.

This is a bit of a new territory, because there are dollar signs all over the hemp industry, so you get folks who aren’t in it necessarily for the passion of farming, but for the opportunity to make money.

How does Colorado’s hemp industry compare to that of other states around the country?

Basically, we kick butt. We had one of the first hemp programs in the country, and there’s still only a few across the country. Folks are racing post-2018 Farm Bill to set something up, but we are five years ahead of the curve, having our own hemp program. We’ve got experience with certified hemp seeds, managing registrations and inspections, working with growers and universities, and dealing with the federal government before it was legal.
We’ve got pretty incredible experience in Colorado; our state is set up for it, and our governor is all about hemp. It’s a fantastic time to be doing this work in Colorado, so I think by all accounts, we are ahead of the game. Our intent is to stay there.

I’m glad you brought up certified seeds. How important is a state-certified seed for hemp farmers, whose plants must stay below 0.3 percent THC?

That gets us into “hot hemp” territory, right? The whole premise of this hemp industry is that we’re producing end products that have 0.3 percent THC or less. In order to get there, you need some certainty about the crops that you’re growing. If farmers were just putting in whichever seeds into the ground and grew plants that were above that 0.3 level, there’s no way to have certainty about your crop. Having a certified seed just gives you much greater certainty in that what you plant is something that you’ll actually be able to harvest.

Other aspects of ag have similar things: When you put a carrot seed in the ground, you want to know that you’re getting a sweet carrot in the end. That’s not dissimilar from hemp.

How big of a problem is hot hemp (with THC levels over 0.3 percent) in Colorado?

That’s hard to say. It’s an issue we’re aware of, and one that growers certainly have encountered. It’s something we’re working to solve through our CHAMP [Colorado Hemp Advancement and Management Plan] initiative, which essentially came out of having conversations like this across state agencies, with industries, institutions of higher education and other entities. We ask questions about hot hemp and other options for growers. Before CHAMP, we didn’t have an avenue to figure these things out, so we took leadership in creating a structure that will allow regulatory agencies, industries, Native tribes, learning institutions and farmers to sit around a table and actually develop answers. There are still so many questions about the X, Y and Z of hemp — like interstate transport [and] how the Department of Public Safety can determine what is hemp and what is not. All of those questions finally have a table to sit at.

States like Idaho and South Dakota have banned hemp farming despite federal legalization, citing worries over bad actors who would grow THC-rich marijuana instead of hemp. How big of a concern are bad actors for the CDA, and how do you address it?

That’s why we partnered with the Department of Public Safety. With the CHAMP plan, we’ve coordinated with about ten other state agencies across Colorado, like DPS and the Office of Economic Development and International Trade — so we have advancement and management. DPS is on board to dig into the unlawful questions, because that’s outside of our jurisdiction. So that’s why we work closely with law enforcement to make sure they have the tools they need to do their jobs well.

Hot hemp is an issue in Colorado. We’re not exempt from what other states are facing in terms of black market and illegal grows, but that’s something we lean on our law enforcement partners to address while providing as much help as we can.

CDA director Kate GreenbergEXPAND

CDA director Kate Greenberg

Courtesy of the Department of Agriculture

With more states getting ready to allow hemp and CBD companies within their borders, how does Colorado maintain the leadership it’s had for the past five years?

I think the CHAMP initiative is a big way toward that. It’s a huge, coordinated effort that includes anyone who has a stake in the game across Colorado, but it’s also going to be open-sourced. We’ve been talking to other states that don’t have programs, and are offering our expertise. We don’t see this as something we need to hold on to and keep away from everyone. We’ve got a national and international industry with this now, and we can’t keep it it within closed borders in Colorado. This is going to have to include interstate commerce, and we really see our creativity and desire to bring in thought leaders as ways to continue our leadership.

One way to establish our leadership is getting our state plan into the USDA. We’re in close communication with the USDA to make sure they see us as a partner in this, and that we are a resource. Submitting our state plan is big here, just to make sure our state’s hemp program is still a leader. Another one is the larger CHAMP report, which will show what it takes to grow our hemp industry beyond the Farm Bill. This is a big-vision process. We just closed our stakeholder applications for eight CHAMP working groups, and I think we got about 160 applications.

Local governments are also big partners for us. Towns and counties have a lot of questions about what they can do at the local level. That collaborative nature, creativity, big-thinking and inclusiveness, I think that’s what will set up Colorado to maintain leadership in this realm.

How will the USDA’s new oversight affect hemp farming in Colorado?

There are very specific bullet points that the Farm Bill lays out for states that want to run their own hemp programs. If a state doesn’t want to run its own program, the USDA will do it for you, but that’s not what we’re going to do in Colorado. We’re going to maintain our leadership and direction over hemp. So we just need to hit those bullet points — and we’ve already hit a lot of them — about where we’ve been and where we want to go.

The USDA is doing its own rulemaking around this, as well, so we want to make sure that whatever comes out of Washington, D.C., aligns with what we’ve got going on here in Colorado and enables us to advance our hemp industry as far as possible.

Where does CBD fall into all of this? Does the CDA have any say over how CBD products are regulated?

We don’t regulate or oversee anything having to do with processing, sales or products with CBD. Our jurisdiction pretty much ends with the plant harvest, and then we do THC testing on the hemp. Beyond that, it goes to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. That’s another CHAMP partner that helps us not just look at hemp cultivation, but at all end uses of the plant.

How does Colorado’s climate stack up against other parts of the country for hemp growing?

Man, from what I can tell, this place is great for it. We’ve got a lot of indoor grows, as well, but we’ve also got a lot of hail. Everyone’s got their natural disaster of choice, though. But, yeah, our climate and soil are great.
One thing I’d like to also mention is sustainability. It’s a big value for our department, and we’re really thinking about how hemp can help drive sustainability, and really reach those markets that care about sustainability.
Looking at water use — because we’re an arid state — there’s a lot of excitement around hemp for not necessarily requiring a lot of water. I think we need to make sure as we’re building out our industry that we’re taking care of our water and soil, those farming aspects, to make sure we’re still giving back.


Toke of the Town

Ancient Bread Remnants Predate Early Agriculture

TUESDAY, July 17, 2018 — Recently discovered remains of 14,400-year-old bread are the oldest ever found and predate the dawn of agriculture by at least 4,000 years, researchers report.

Charred remnants of a flatbread baked by hunter-gatherers were found at an archaeological site in northeastern Jordan known as Shubayqa 1.

The discovery suggests that the use of wild cereals to make bread may have led hunter-gatherers to grow cereals and contribute to the agricultural revolution, according to the authors.

“The presence of hundreds of charred food remains in the fireplaces at Shubayqa 1 is an exceptional find, and it has given us the chance to characterize 14,000-year-old food practices,” said first author Amaia Arranz Otaegui, an archaeobotanist at the University of Copenhagen, in Denmark.

The remains analyzed in this study show that wild ancestors of domesticated cereals — such as barley, einkorn and oat — had been ground, sieved and kneaded prior to cooking, Arranz Otaegui said in a university news release.

“The remains are very similar to unleavened flatbreads identified at several Neolithic and Roman sites in Europe and Turkey. So we now know that bread-like products were produced long before the development of farming,” Arranz Otaegui added.

The next step, she said, is to see if bread production and consumption influenced the emergence of plant cultivation.

Bread-making involves labor-intensive processing, including dehusking, grinding of cereals and kneading and baking, explained fellow researcher, Dorian Fuller, of University College London.

“That it was produced before farming methods suggests it was seen as special, and the desire to make more of this special food probably contributed to the decision to begin to cultivate cereals,” Fuller suggested.

The study was published online July 16 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

More information

EnvironmentalScience.org has more on the history of agriculture.

© 2018 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Posted: July 2018

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Washington: Marijuana Worker Protection Standards Released by Agriculture Department

As legal cannabis business grows larger, states are realizing standards need to be set.

In the latest step toward standardizing cannabis cultivation, the Washington State Department of Agriculture released formal recommendations called the “Worker Protection Standards (WPS): Requirements for Marijuana Growers.”

Standards in the regular world of agriculture are created by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). However, USDA inspection or certification of cannabis is prohibited because USDA employees must abide by federal laws. Over half of U.S. states have legalized medicinal or recreational marijuana use, but since the USDA cannot get involved, there are no set standards for cannabis cultivation.

In a bold yet inspiring move, Washington has decided to go rogue and develop their own guidelines to ensure worker safety and quality control.

The WSP: Requirements for Marijuana Growers that the Department of Ag generated is mostly focused on pesticide protection. It requires pesticide safety training before beginning employment that must be provided by a qualified WPS trainer. These regulations also require personal protective equipment (PPE) to be worn to protect individuals from contact with pesticides. Standard PPE includes a respirator, chemical resistant gloves and protective eyewear.

These new regulations also set pesticide re-entry restrictions, ensuring no employees are put at risk of contamination. After an area has been treated with pesticides, it cannot be entered again for at least four hours. Proper warning signs must be visible from all points of access into the garden for three days after treatment.

These rules officially take effect in January of 2017.

See the WSP: Requirements for Marijuana Growers in detail.

 

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VIDEO: Texas Marijuana Farm A Rare Find Near Border

On land once used to grow watermelons and grain, 8-foot tall marijuana plants swayed under a canopy of mesquite. White pipes and a pump diverted water from a canal, delivered to the 60-foot long rows by carefully excavated trenches. Two acres of painstakingly cultivated marijuana thrived 25 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, but on the Texas side. Tons of marijuana cross the border daily from Mexico and large-scale grow operations are routinely found in the interior U.S. — authorities dismantled a massive one in the woods about 70 miles northeast of Houston last month that yielded 100,000 plants.



Read more… “VIDEO: Texas Marijuana Farm A Rare Find Near Border”

President Obama Signs Farm Bill With Amendment to Allow Industrial Hemp Research By State Agriculture Departments, Colleges and Universities

WASHINGTON, DC — Vote Hemp, the nation’s leading grassroots hemp advocacy organization working to revitalize industrial hemp production in the U.S., is excited to report that President Obama has signed the Farm Bill which contains an amendment to legalize hemp production for research purposes. Originally introduced by Representatives Jared Polis (D-CO), Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), the amendment allows State Agriculture Departments, colleges and universities to grow hemp, defined as the non-drug oilseed and fiber varieties of Cannabis, for academic or agricultural research purposes, but it applies only to states where industrial hemp farming is already legal under state law. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) successfully worked to retain and strengthen the hemp research amendment during the Farm Bill conference committee process. The full text of the bill may be found at: www.VoteHemp.com/FarmBill.

“With the U.S. hemp industry estimated at over $ 500 million in annual retail sales and growing, a change in federal law to allow colleges and universities to grow hemp for research means that we will finally begin to regain the knowledge that unfortunately has been lost over the past fifty years,” says Vote Hemp President Eric Steenstra. “This is the first time in American history that industrial hemp has been legally defined by our federal government as distinct from drug varieties of Cannabis. The market opportunities for hemp are incredibly promising-ranging from textiles and health foods to home construction and even automobile manufacturing. This is not just a boon to U.S. farmers, this is a boon to U.S. manufacturing industries as well.”

So far in the 2014 legislative season, industrial hemp legislation has been introduced or carried over in thirteen states: Arizona, Hawaii, Indiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey (carried over from 2013), New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington (two bills carried over from 2013), West Virginia and Wisconsin. The full text of these state hemp bills may be found at: www.VoteHemp.com/state.html#2014.

In addition to the Farm Bill amendment, two standalone industrial hemp bills have been introduced in the 113th Congress so far. H.R. 525, the “Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013,” was introduced in the U.S. House on February 6, 2013, and the companion bill, S. 359, was introduced in the U.S. Senate soon thereafter on February 14, 2013. The bills define industrial hemp, exclude it from the definition of “marihuana” in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), and give states the exclusive authority to regulate the growing and processing of the crop under state law. If passed, the bills would remove federal restrictions on the domestic cultivation of industrial hemp. The full text of the bills, as well as their status and co-sponsors, can be found at: www.VoteHemp.com/legislation.

To date, thirty-two states have introduced pro-hemp legislation and twenty have passed pro-hemp legislation. Ten states (California, Colorado, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia) have passed industrial hemp farming laws and removed barriers to its production. These states will be able to take immediate advantage of the industrial hemp research and pilot program provision, Section 7606, of the Farm Bill. Three states (Hawaii, Kentucky and Maryland) have passed bills creating commissions or authorizing research. Nine states (California, Colorado, Illinois, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Vermont and Virginia) have passed resolutions. Finally, eight states (Arkansas, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota and Vermont) have passed study bills. However, despite state authorization to grow hemp, farmers in those states still risk raids by federal agents, prison time, and property and civil asset forfeiture if they plant the crop, due to the failure of federal policy to distinguish non-drug oilseed and fiber varieties of Cannabis (i.e., industrial hemp) from psychoactive drug varieties (i.e., “marihuana”).

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