It has been quiet lately in hemp country – which, since the 2018 Farm Act, of course, includes all 50 states. In fact, industrial hemp plantings were reported to the USDA’s Farm Service Agency by farmers in 48 states in 2020 (Alaska and Mississippi didn’t come to the party).
PanXchange’s January 2021 Hemp: Benchmarks & Analysis data show that prices for hemp at various stages of processing for CBD continue to soften, while both conventional and organic hemp grain prices rose (10% and 2%, respectively) over the month as consumers pay the market for storage as they would with other grain crops.
The one bright spot reported by PanXchange for CBD Hemp is in the continuing strong demand for smokable CBD flower which seems to be occurring despite increasing restrictions. Both Indiana and Iowa have banned smokable CBD products. Indiana’s ban was challenged in federal court which upheld the state’s right to ban the product. Smoking CBD is probably riding on the coattails of the widening legality of marijuana for both recreation and medication. The nascent smokable CBD industry appeared to be giving up hope that the FDA would regulate its usage, thus lending it a measure of respectability. President Biden’s FDA is an unknown actor with regard to CBD policy.
Vaping CBD has been dealt a commercial set back recently by new state and local regulations that prohibit flavored vaping products whether they contain nicotine or not. The final 2020 federal appropriations act contained a section titled “Preventing Online Sales of E-Cigarettes to Children,” which lawyers say will also introduce a raft of new barriers to distribution of CBD vaping products.
The hemp grain business channel, which is as far away from CBD as tofu spring rolls are from soybeans, is benefitting from the serious consideration by the state and federal governments. The veterinary science school at Kansas State University recently received a grant from USDA to study the use of hemp in feed for livestock.
Hemp seeds are known to have a high percentage of very high quality protein. Hemp seeds, which are between the size of poppy seeds and sesame seeds, also contain a highly digestible oil (which is not to be confused with CBD oil!) that can be applied to a wide variety of culinary and even industrial uses.
To date, the best known studies about using hemp as a feed ingredient have been a Swedish study about dairy cows and a Manitoba, Canada, study about chicken eggs. In Sweden, dairy cows that received cakes made of hempseed meal in their feed showed increased nutritional value in their milk. The egg study showed that chickens fed hemp and hemp oil laid eggs with enriched omega-3 fatty acids in the yolks.
The new Kansas State study is intended to investigate primarily the efficacy and safety of feeding cows hemp products from two different angles. Hemp seed meal has a protein content that ranges between 31% and 35%, but that is not a guarantee that the full amount of protein is available to the animals that are fed it.
The other angle that needs research is the extent to which the cannabinoids in hemp feed materials affect the animals themselves and, even more importantly, show up in the milk, meat, eggs and other products meant for human consumption. The most famous cannabinoid, THC, would be present in the feed in very small amounts because the feed should have less than .3% THC content by weight. The final animal products could conceivably contain higher concentrations.
At the same time, the FDA is considering regulations on CBD. Restrictions or other regulations, like labelling, on CBD in food products could complicate the use of CBD rich seed or biomass in animal feed if the CBD is contained in the consumer-level product.
Before CBD and THC can make their way into our breakfast milk, bacon and eggs, the Association of American Feed Control Officials will have to approve feeding animals the hemp based products. The association includes representatives from the government agencies that regulate food quality. The Kansas State study is just the first in what will be many studies of whether hemp is safe as a feed ingredient before it is rolled out into feed lots and hen houses in America.