The Colorado Department of Agriculture recently announced the development of six varieties of hemp seeds, which American growers will have access to purchase starting next year.
American hemp farmers will soon be able to purchase their seeds domestically, thanks to six new varieties recently developed by the Colorado Department of Agriculture. Colorado revealed its hemp seed program last month when state agriculture officials showed off the nation’s first certified domestic hemp seeds. The agriculture department had been working on developing hemp seeds for years, the Associated Press reports.
Industrial hemp is a variety of the Cannabis sativa species that contains a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration of no more than three-tenths of one percent (0.3%). The plant has been cultivated and harvested for centuries for its seeds, stalk, and fibers to produce cannabidiol (CBD) nutritional supplements, food, paper, textiles, building materials, biofuel, animal feed, body care products, and biodegradable plastics. The U.S. hemp market was worth $573 million in 2015, with $65 million of that total due to sales of hemp CBD products like Medical Marijuana, Inc.’s Real Scientific Hemp Oil™ and Dixie Botanicals Dew Drops™. Recent reports indicate that the demand for industrial hemp in the United States is growing “dramatically.”
Domestic hemp farming became legal in the U.S. following the passing of the 2014 Farm Bill, which made industrial hemp distinct from marijuana and authorized universities and state departments of agriculture to cultivate hemp for research and pilot programs. Since then, at least 30 states have passed legislation related to industrial hemp, with at least 16 allowing hemp production for commercial purposes.
American farmers participating in the programs had previously been limited to importing hemp seed, which, according to the report, can range from $25 a pound to more than $1 per individual seed. The lack of affordable certified seeds has been considered an obstacle for the domestic hemp farming industry, but farmers in the states that have passed industrial hemp laws will have the opportunity to purchase hemp seeds from Colorado seed distributors beginning in 2017.
The Colorado Department of Agriculture developed the seeds with the help of Colorado Seed Growers Association (CSGA) and Colorado State University. Over the past several months, the departments worked at breeding cannabis that produced seeds under the 0.3 percent THC threshold. The six separate varieties of hemp seeds will receive CDA and CSGA approval. Each has been tailored to flourish when grown in high altitude environments, which could pose challenges for out-of-state growers.
The news of Colorado’s seeds suggests that American-grown hemp could eventually prevail in the U.S hemp market, which as of now predominately imports its hemp to produce its products.
“It’s going to take some time for that to happen,” Eric Steenstra, executive director of the Hemp Industry Association (HIA), told Marijuana Business Daily. “But eventually a very large amount of it will be grown domestically.”
For that to happen, however, more states with hemp farming legislation would need to approve commercial programs, or Congress would need to change laws to allow for a comprehensive nationwide commercial hemp growing industry.
“We’re very hopeful that that’s not far off. We’ve made a lot of progress towards that, but it’s maybe 20 years before the U.S. can get all the infrastructure in place in terms of processing, getting the seed varieties developed, getting farmers up to speed,” Steenstra added. “Hopefully it will be sooner, but it takes time for these big crop changes to take place.”
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