cannabisnews.com: Alberta Farmers Slow To Try Growing Hemp!





Alberta Farmers Slow To Try Growing Hemp!
Posted by FoM on August 14, 1999 at 17:54:29 PT
By Grant Robertson, Calgary Herald
Source: Calgary Herald
When the prices of farm commodities went to pot two years ago, Brian McIllroy joined a small group of Canadian farmers growing hemp. 

The crop had been heaped in praise and talk of potential after the federal government gave farmers the green light to grow an industrial version of hemp in 1998. With the psychoactive drug properties of marijuana bred out of the seeds, industrial hemp was seen as an untapped source of fibre material and vegetable oil. But in its first full year of production, hemp crops have been slow to take off. Farmers across the Prairies experimented with a few hundred acres last year, but only Manitoba farmers have started large-scale hemp operations. An estimated 15,000 acres of hemp were planted in Manitoba this year -- the most in the country. Alberta farmers were less swayed by the hype, planting slightly more than 1,000 acres. "We are past the stage of having it as a hype crop where everyone was laughing, tee-hee, at the mention of it," said McIllroy, who farms in Manitoba "I still think the potential is there, but what we have to do is get organized and find the markets. It's going to be a real battle." The challenge has been finding buyers. While a few large hemp processors have set up shop in Manitoba, the balance of processing capacity in the country is still heavily weighted towards Ontario. Most hemp grown in Canada is harvested for its seeds, which are crushed for their oil and used in niche-market cooking products as well as specialized shampoo, soap and skin cream. Stan Blade, a director of crop diversification for Alberta Agriculture, said the province will need a more mature processing market before farmers buy into it as much as other niche crops, such as field peas. "Last year, farmers were just looking at hemp as something to try. This year, they're in it for the commercial business," Blade said. "But if it's not going to pay the bills, farmers aren't going to do it." Alberta Agriculture has began looking into ways to increase seed and fibre production. A program that will test hemp over the next year as feed for livestock is unique in Canada and could open up a new door for the crop. The forage hemp will be tested on cattle against a more traditional mixture of oats and barley. Hemp plants can grow over 10 feet tall and produce ample amounts of foliage, which could be attractive to farmers, Blade said. "When you show farmers a field of 12-foot-tall crops, people get excited about the possibilities," he said. Eastern processors have began selling hemp fibre as an alternative to petrochemical materials used in the fabric lining of cars and the backing on carpet. Whether the projected markets will pan out, "your guess is as good as mine," said Blade. "We see this with a lot of new crops, it's not always clear how things will shake out." The harvest outlook for hemp is positive, despite some of this year's hemp crops experiencing wind and hail problems, said Guy Cloutier of Cloutier Agraseeds. "The acres have grown significantly, but the weather problems may have put a sour taste in some of the producers' mouths," he said. Hemp Agricultural hemp growing was legalized in 1998 by the federal government. It had been banned in 1938 along with marijuana cultivation. Agricultural hemp carries only trace levels of the drug tetrahydrocannabinol and has no recreational value. The hemp is harvested for its fibre which can be turned into fabric and particle board. The oil from hemp seeds is used in specialty cooking oils and beauty products. Farmers who grow hemp are subject to criminal background checks. The crop is monitored as well. There are 1,000 acres of agricultural hemp grown in Alberta. Manitoba is Canada's biggest producer with an estimated 15,000 acres.Pubdate: August 14, 1999Copyright  1999 Calgary Herald New Media 
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