Tipton visits with hemp leaders

DEL NORTE — On Thursday US Representative Scott Tipton (R-Colorado) spent time at the new “Trading Post” store located at 505 Grande Avenue, Del Norte. Tipton was there to meet with Monte Robertson, CEO of San Luis Valley Hemp Co., and Shanan Wright and Dion Oakes who own and operate Wright-Oakes Farm. 

Rep. Tipton is gathering information on the Colorado Hemp Industry in preparation for upcoming legislation. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky and Senate Majority Leader) has announced that he will introduce legislation to remove hemp from the controlled substances list and legalize it as an agricultural commodity. Rep. Tipton said “If this bill advances through the Senate it stands a very good chance of also passing in the House of Representatives.” 

Robertson is a hemp processor; and Wright and Oakes are farmers raising Industrial Hemp commercially. The three men can speak clearly and factually about the challenges and roadblocks businessmen are facing in what was once a thriving American industry. 

They shared first hand information about crop insurance, business insurance, banking regulations, and other legal limitations imposed on hemp because of its current substance listing.

This impotent cousin of the marijuana plant does not require the acres of pesticides and herbicides farmers traditionally have to pay for. There are benefits to field conditions when potato farmers use hemp as a rotation crop. Another cost savings is the limited water needed to grow hemp. Water usage will become a local crisis again this summer with the lack of snow in the mountains. 

Robust processing facilities are critical to the successful utilization of hemp. The entire plant can be utilized in some form or another. Robertson shared that by this fall’s harvest he will be ready to process seed in a significant way. Sustainability depends upon buyers for the harvested crops who will convert the plant into products for other uses. These uses can include medicinal, food, plastics, cloth, paper, bio-diesel, and others. These uses do not require processing facilities costing tens of millions of dollars.

Without enough processing capabilities, what’s grown in the field can outpace what can be sold.  That was a stumbling block that set back Canadian production when it first embraced the hemp industry. Like any ag industry it requires a holistic balance of USDA, CDA, Dept. of Revenue, and banking to succeed.

Representative Tipton listened and asked very specific and pointed questions, which Robertson, Wright and Oakes were able to answer in detail. They also shared some personal, successful anecdotes they have already experienced here in the Valley.      

Caption: From left are Jeff Owsley, Scott Tipton, Shanan Wright, Monte Roberston, and Brenda Felmlee./Courtesy photo