Adams State University announces Industrial Hemp Initiative
With the goal of supporting economic development in the San Luis Valley (SLV), Adams State University launched its Industrial Hemp Initiative, July 25. The Adams State University Industrial Hemp Initiative aims to create an SLV Viable Hemp Seed Program and to develop a large-scale, hemp-based economy in the SLV. Adams State is partnering on the project with the Colorado Department of Agriculture and Denver-based International Hemp Solutions (IHS) and Bija Hemp.
Noting that Colorado Governor Hickenlooper encourages hemp industry development because of its potential for positive economic impact, Adams State President Beverlee J. McClure said, "This is rural development at its best. I believe the valley can position itself to be a leader in the hemp industry. We can have the complete supply chain, from seed production to hemp cultivation to manufacturing products made from hemp."
She said the initiative focuses on four E's: Economy, Environment, Education, and Entrepreneurship. "The overarching goal is to improve the San Luis Valley's economy. Because hemp requires very little water and is completely biodegradable, it is good for the environment and for farmers. Hemp can also be grown at high altitudes and in short growing seasons. The education component will be provided by Adams State, and new businesses can be developed to produce hemp products."
Assistant Director of Plant Industries at the Colorado Department of Agriculture, Duane Sinning, said, "We support the economic development research Adams State is doing in the valley. We think this can not only benefit the valley, but also the state, the nation, and the hemp industry in general."
Tim Gordon, CEO of Bija Hemp, said, "At Bija Hemp, we are really excited to start the hemp initiative for the San Luis Valley. We believe building a hemp industry in the SLV will spur an economic revitalization, and we're very proud to be working with Adams State on this endeavor."
In 2014, the U.S. Farm Bill outlined an Agricultural Pilot Program that allows higher education institutions in states that permit it to cultivate hemp for research. Early in her tenure as Adams State's president, McClure followed up on requests from the agricultural community to explore possibilities for hemp in the San Luis Valley. Adams State, in partnership with IHS and Bija Hemp, recently received 30 metric tons of industrial hemp seed from the Ukraine - enough to plant up to 3,000 acres. This shipment marks the largest intercontinental import of viable hemp seed in over 80 years. The seed is stored in a secured, climate-controlled facility, in compliance with Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) regulations. Adams State is one of only a handful of higher education institutions in the U.S. to conduct hemp research as part of the pilot program.
"This is very exciting for valley farmers. This is a great first step, as it makes it easier for them to get into a new industry," said Randy Wright, director of the Alamosa Chamber of Commerce. "From a farming standpoint, a big plus is that hemp requires very little water. This may allow us to put back into production farm land that has gone uncultivated because of water shortages. Eventually, we would like for hemp to go from farmer to finished product completely in the SLV."
He added that International Hemp Solutions is providing difficult-to-obtain seed and guaranteeing it meets the requirements to be considered a hemp crop. It also guarantees it will purchase seeds produced through the initiative. Growers would be paid approximately $1,000 an acre for their hemp crops. McClure said a number of area farmers have expressed interest in the project.
Marty Asplin, executive director of URGED (Upper Rio Grande Economic Development) said, "The biggest thing is that right out of the gate we can start getting businesses here. The hemp plant is 100 percent usable and has amazing versatility. Any number of ancillary businesses can come out of the hemp industry. This creates opportunities for small and entrepreneurial businesses. It doesn't require large factories, large water use, large utility costs, a large workforce, or a specific geographic location. It will be tremendous for economies in the valley."
Hemp is legally grown in 30 countries, and the U.S. imports about $500 million worth of hemp products annually. "Our research will explore which hemp products make sense for production in the valley and identify markets for those goods. The research component may also expand to a study of the hemp cultivation process," McClure said. Adams State will conduct market research for the hemp industry and develop a hemp curriculum.
"Part of Adams State's role will be to educate people about what hemp is and is not," McClure added. Adams State hosted the first SLV Hemp Symposium last November. More than 300 people from Colorado and beyond attended to learn about the benefits and potential of hemp. The second annual symposium is planned for November 9. For details, contact 719-587-7341.
To qualify as hemp, cannabis must have a THC content of less than 0.3% - too little to cause any psychoactive effects. It is considered marijuana if it exceeds that level. THC levels in medical marijuana typically range from 12 to 28%. In addition to providing oil and seeds for food and medical use, hemp can be used to manufacture a wide range of products: plastics, paper, clothing, and construction materials such as hemp insulation and hempcrete. Hemp fiber is extremely durable, fire resistant, and antimicrobial. Every part of the plant can be used in some form.
As stipulated in the Farm Bill, Adams State has partnered with the Colorado Department of Agriculture, which obtained the necessary permit from the DEA to import and cultivate hemp seed.
About Bija Hemp, LLC
Bija Hemp is a wholly owned subsidiary of International Hemp Solutions (IHS), PBC. With headquarters in Denver, Colorado, Bija Hemp is a seed company specializing in the genetics and cultivation of industrial hemp across the United States by creating accessible channels between hemp farmers, researchers, processors, manufacturers, and retailers both domestic and foreign.
By Julie Waechter