Future of hemp as livestock feed ingrediant in hands of producers | TheFencePost.com

Future of hemp as livestock feed ingrediant in hands of producers

While the approval is likely months away, hemp producers have a plan moving forward to see if part of the hemp plant can be used for livestock feed.

The stakeholder group was commissioned after a bill in the 2017 Colorado legislative session released the results of discussions spanning four months with representatives from the hemp, livestock and regulatory sectors. The group was a direct result of a bill to approve hemp as an ingredient in livetock feed.

However, there is more that needs to happen for any part of the plant to be approved in the future. It's been a learning process for many involved, and it was the first time the hemp industry was really at the table, according to Hunter Buffington, executive director of Colorado Hemp Industry Association.

She said it was important to have multiple industries at the table because it helped start a conversation with leaders in the agriculture industry. It could help in the long run because the goal of the hemp industry to get the federal label removed. Because of misperceptions, even though hemp is cannabis, you can't get high as you would with marijuana.

But before then, it's important for hemp to be involved within agriculture groups, such as the stakeholder group. It also helps those in the hemp industry gain better knowledge on how to integrate itself, as well.

Veronica Carpio is a hemp farmer and founder of Grow Hemp Colorado, and was behind the legislation last year that eventually led to the stakeholder group. She originally thought it would simply take a change in law to allow hemp products to be allowed in feed.

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The approval process for ingredients in feed isn't necessarily common knowledge. When that became obvious, Hollis Glenn, division director for the inspection and consumer services program with the Colorado Department of Agriculture, assembled a table of diverse representation in the agriculture industry to partake in the stakeholder group. This allowed for the communication Buffington hoped for, while also helping with the education of how feed ingredient approval works. Plus, they also were able to come to some conclusions that should help the process.

One of the takeaways Glenn said was the need for cohesion in the hemp industry, along with working with the federal law as it now stands. While hemp is still illegal under federal law, the seed is an exception. Because of that, the stakeholders recommended the hemp industry apply for feed ingredient approval for hemp seed, flour and oil; the flour and oil are derived from the seed.

Glenn said it would make more sense to gain the approval of those three ingredients since they are not illegal. Buffington agreed, adding there's still a long way to go before hemp will likely be able to distinguish itself apart from its cannabis counterparts.

LOOKING AHEAD

The next step is in the hands of the hemp industry, Glenn said. His wish is for the industry to have a unified front when seeking approval for hemp as a feed ingredient.

However, Carpio and Buffington are looking at the process in two different ways. According to Hollis, the approval process could take a couple of years, and one key factor will be studies that prove the nutritional value and the safety of the hemp byproducts for the animals and consumers.

The studies are where Carpio and Buffington are split. Carpio said there's already solid evidence proving hemp would be safe and beneficial — pointing particularly to studies done in Europe. Buffington, on the other hand, said the first step toward approval is working with people who can find recent, solidified studies in the United States. Buffington said she believes they're out there, and would rather not reinvent the wheel.

Carpio said she brought some of the studies to the stakeholders, but they weren't really discussed. Carpio said she intends to have approval within 12 months. She believes the European studies she already has are more than enough. Her next step in the process is to raise money to hire a company to help with the approval process. She doesn't want to leave anything to chance.

Buffington's timeline is closely aligned with Glenn's. She's waiting for the studies to be collected before jumping forward too quickly.

But the three all showed confidence that, if the process is done correctly, there is potential that within the next five years, hemp could be grown as a feed ingrdient.

­— Fox is a reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at sfox@thefencepost.com, (970) 392-4410 or on Twitter @FoxonaFarm.