Tuesday, February 18, 2014


David R. Brower
     There is a new/old crop that will be available again to producers in the United States.  This crop has about as much diversity as the peanut and was once considered a crop of vital importance to the nation.  However, it has been illegal to grow it in the US.  Canada has been a leader in its production in North America.  Remnants of this once vital crop can be seen in roadside ditches and along creeks, and tree rows.  And if you pull it up and try to use it you can be jailed.
     WHAT IS IT?  Hemp.
     The hemp plant.  It thrives in drouthy areas and poor soils.  Is easy to grow and market.  So why has it been illegal?  Hemp is a member of the same plant family that Marijuana belongs to, (Cannabis).  It has similar visual features.  So the DEA has included the Hemp plant in on its 'War on Drugs'.
      There is one difference.  Hemp contains no THC which is the active ingredient that gets you high.  You also cannot hide the Marijuana plant in growths of Hemp because they do not look close enough to use as a shield for the illicit plants.
      In fact the great hypocrisy is that hemp products are marketed all over the US and most do not hide what it's ingredients are.  There was a provision made for one product that had so much use it could not be outlawed.  So they changed the name to Sisal.  Call it Sisal it is legal, call it hemp and it isn't.
     The leader worldwide in hemp production is China.  In 2011 the US imported 11.5 million dollars worth of hemp products.  Some hemp seed finds it way into Granola.  Wouldn't it be great to bring production back here from China?
     With the change in enforcement attitudes one grower in Colorado put in a crop and had excellent results in 2013.    Ryan Loflin planted a plot without even getting a permit from the State.  He plans on expanding production this year because he is saving seed to increase the small seed supply that exists.
      Hemp produces fiber, oil, and seed.  It is refined into seed foods, oil, wax, resin, rope, cloth, pulp, creams, soaps, lotions, and fuel.  It was grown in Kansas especially for the fiber that was used in ropes and was vital to the war effort in WW 2.  This is why there is wild hemp growing all over the state.  You could smoke a bale of it and not get a buzz, though some dealers would mix the material with the real plant to stretch the volume.  The phrase 'smoking rope' comes from the time when most rope was made from hemp.  (Don't go trying to smoke an old piece of rope out of grampa's barn, it won't do you any good).
     With the passage of the new farm bill provisions are there that make farming of Hemp legal again.  This versatile and drought tolerant plant will make a great addition to the rotation in a farmers plans.  With the pressure on ground water this would be a great way to conserve what we have left.

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