ALAMOSA — Colorado is on the forefront of the hemp comeback, with the San Luis Valley poised to be a big part of it.
In a recent visit to the San Luis Valley Michael Bowman, chairman of the Hemp for Victory campaign and fifth generation Yuma County farmer, was impressed with the foresight and pragmatism of San Luis Valley producers in embracing hemp as a viable crop.
Spending time with leaders in the hemp industry in the Valley, he said, “They are doing what needs to be done.”
He commended Power Zone, for example, for developing equipment specifically for hemp harvesting and production.
“What’s going on here in the Valley is close to unique,” Bowman added. “There’s a lot of opportunity here, and they are really taking this opportunity in the right way. They are figuring out how to grow it, figuring how to process it with good credible people. … You are taking that extra mile getting to the end point of production that many areas don’t have. You have an advantage with what Power Zone is doing.”
He added, “I can’t express how impressed I have been with everyone I have met in regard to this opportunity.”
Colorado was the number-one hemp state in the nation last year, Bowman said, with more than 10,000 acres grown. (Kentucky was second with only about 3,000 acres.) According to the Colorado Department of Agriculture, Valley counties have more than 50 industrial hemp registrants with an active status.
“We really set the pace early on,” Bowman said. Colorado legalized industrial hemp, in 2012, for example, and now 38 states have legalized industrial hemp.
“We have made some good strides. We’ve got a good political ecosystem. The state government has been enormously supportive.”
This is true from the state agencies such as the Colorado Department of Agriculture to state legislature, Bowman added.
Bowman has been involved in hemp advocacy for 17 years.
“With perseverance good things can happen,” Bowman said. “Never ever give up.”
Hemp provides an opportunity to introduce a new crop and excite young people who want to get into this industry and create products for the marketplace, Bowman said, “which is what farmers are really good at.”
When the crop is deregulated and farmers are turned loose to freely grow it, “they do some wonderful things.”
Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner from Colorado co-sponsored the bipartisan Hemp Farming Act of 2018, which would legalize and clearly define hemp as an agricultural commodity and remove it from the list of controlled substances, and Senator Bennet was instrumental in retaining Section 7606 in the Farm Bill regarding industrial hemp. (Bowman authored that section.) With the exception of Congressman Doug Lamborn, “we have had the entire Colorado delegation behind us,” Bowman said.
“This is really bipartisan.”
Bowman added, “We think 2018 is our year to get de-scheduling finally done, returning the crop of our founding fathers back to the farm where it was intended.”
This is the 75th anniversary of the Hemp for Victory Campaign, which promoted hemp for the World War II effort. It was a robust crop from 1943-1947.
Hemp is a versatile crop that has been used for everything from clothing to food. In 1776 the founding fathers drafted the Declaration of Independence on hemp fiber fabric/paper. It can be used for food, feed, fiber, fuel, oils, twine, yarn, bags, paper products, body care products, detergent, building materials … and more.
“There’s always something somewhere where hemp can play a role,” Bowman said.
He added that hemp is also a good crop for using less water and pesticides, another plus for increasing its production in Colorado.
Hemp History Week will be celebrated next week, June 4-10, followed by the Hemp for Victory campaign promoting the de-scheduling bill.
Bowman is optimistic about the success of that bill.
Caption: This photo was taken on the Wright-Oakes Farm near Center, owned by Shanan Wright and Dion Oakes, during the 2017 growing season. Courtesy photo.