Farmers intrigued by hemp’s potential | Southern Idaho Agriculture News

BUHL — Farmers had mixed reactions during the first Idaho hemp producers meeting on Friday. 

Although many people are interested in growing the new crop, there were concerns about the number of steps the Idaho State Department of Agriculture requires to get a license. 

“I know you may want to beat up on the state of Idaho, but take it up further,” said Morgan Tweet, co-founder of Montana-based company IND Hemp. “It’s the USDA that really has these strenuous rules.”

More than 70 people attended the meeting on Friday, held at 1,000 Springs Mill in Buhl. 

Speakers included local farmer Tim Cornie, Idaho State Department of Agriculture representative Casey Monn and Hempitecture Founder Mattie Mead.

Tweet and Ben Brimlow, IND Hemp agronomist, spoke about how their business has grown since the 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the controlled substances list.

IND Hemp takes the raw hemp grain, cleans it and processes it into usable commodities like hemp seed oil and hemp hearts. 

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“I tell people what we work with is the Thomas Jefferson hemp, there is the Bob Marley hemp out there, that has its place, but we are Thomas Jefferson hemp,” Brimlow said to laughter. 

Hemp has a stigma because of its connection to marijuana. The plants are both part of the same species, however, hemp contains less THC. 

Idaho State Police Specialist Rick Stouse said legislatures have decided hemp is a legitimate crop, such as soybeans and potatoes, and that’s how law enforcement will treat it.

“Everyone thinks ‘Some high schooler is going to come into my field and roll up a joint,’ that’s not going to happen,” Tweet said. 

She encouraged farmers in attendance to be advocates for the new crop and dispel misconceptions. Part of her work involves speaking with legislators and policymakers to change how the crop is managed. 

“If you’re growing a fiber crop, and you don’t even have a flower to harvest, why are you having to be regulated and managed the same as crops that are growing the flower?” she said. 

Industrial hemp is grown for its fiber and seeds. THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis is found in the flower, not the seeds or stalks, she said. 

Industrial hemp fiber can be used for a wide variety of products including textiles, clothing, building materials and paper. Hemp seeds are rich in protein, fiber, and healthy fatty acids including omega-3s and omega-6s, said Cornie, who is the co-owner of 1,000 Springs Mill. 

“We have been lobbying for three years to get where we are today,” Cornie said. 

His company makes organic, non-GMO foods and he is eager to add hemp products to the list. He already applied for his growers’ license with the Idaho State Department of Agriculture. 

He doesn’t believe that the rules should dissuade anyone from growing the crop.

“We are no different than any other state,” he said. 

To get a license or handling license, applicants need to submit a background check, along with maps, and information about their farm or handling facility. 

Individuals are ineligible to receive a license if the applicant is under 18 or if they have been convicted of a felony relating to a controlled substance in the past 10 years. A full list of eligibility rules can be found on the Idaho Department of Agriculture website under the State Hemp Plan document.

Casey Monn, Idaho State Department of Agriculture ag bureau chief for the Bureau of Food Safety, Hemp and Hops, said there are a few common errors the department is noticing on applications. 

Incomplete maps, background checks done out of the state, not listing growing locations or incorrect GPS coordinates, are all reasons why an application could be denied, he said. 

The application is $100, for both producers and handlers. The annual license costs $500 for growers and $1,000 for handlers. 

Handlers, who will be able to process industrial hemp into commodities or products, are the limiting factor in terms of growth, Tweet said. 

“Hemp has had a little bit of a slow start here in the U.S. because there are very few facilities who can do that first processing step,” she said. “There are a lot of people interested in growing it, a lot of people interested in consuming it and using it, but there’s not a lot of people converting it from a raw material to a usable ingredient.”

Hempitecture is one of the businesses that wants to use processed hemp to create HempWool, a thermal insulation. The company is building a manufacturing center in Jerome that should be completed sometime this year. 

Mead, the company’s founder and CEO, said HempWool is safe to touch, sustainable and 92% plant-based. It also captures carbon dioxide, making it more environmentally friendly than other alternatives.

Tweet said there was one thing she hoped everyone learned on Friday.

“The one take-home you get out of here today, for those of you who are new to industrial hemp, is the fear and maybe the stereotype you came in here with today is gone.”

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