Colorado Finalizing Hemp Program Best Practices Blueprint

Colorado is preparing guidance on how to address challenges to the state’s hemp industry

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November 17, 2020

The Colorado Hemp Advancement Management Plan (CHAMP)is expected to release its final report on hemp supply chain best practices by the end of the year, addressing several industry challenges.

CHAMP includes 191 stakeholders, 10 state agencies, tribal partners, local governments, and industry experts. The group is developing recommendations for each part of the supply chain: research and development, seed, cultivation, transportation, testing, processing, manufacturing, marketing, banking, and insurance.

The initiative serves as the state’s center of excellence for hemp. Centers of excellence are recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) as hubs for research, extension, and education in crop cultivation. The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (the 2018 Farm Bill) calls for NIFA “to give priority in funding to applications from centers of excellence in its research and extension competitive grant programs,” according to the institute’s website.

Industry Challenges

During a Nov. 10 state symposium, Brian Koontz, the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s (CDA) hemp program manager, laid out the various challenges facing the industry that will be addressed in the blueprint. These challenges—including land stewardship problems, improper water usage, land rights conflicts, law enforcement education on hemp, and pollen drift—can hamper the industry’s success, Koontz said.

In 2020, the state observed widespread problems in land stewardship due in part to the large number of people who lacked much of an economic or horticultural background, Koontz said. Trash, including plastic mulch and irrigation parts, was left behind on fields, many of which were left fallow because of declining production. Some fields went to seed, affecting nearby crops through cross-pollination, he added. Many newer growers also did not use cover crops nor rotate their hemp crops with others, as experts recommend for weed, pest and pathogen reduction. The state will provide recommendations on best cultivation practices in its blueprint to address these issues, Koontz added.

A great deal of uncertainty also exists regarding standards for hemp transportation, both in state and across state lines, to avoid running afoul of law enforcement.

CDA has been educating law enforcement on the new industry. The agency has also advised growers, processors, and others to give law enforcement notice of any transport and provide the police with relevant information. That information would include certificates of analysis of the crop to show it is hemp, and a phytosanitary certificate verifying that the product is safe for export. The agency also recommends that parties provide law enforcement with a transportation manifest that shows where the shipment is coming from and where it is going.

Koontz said that next year CHAMP will provide law enforcement with training to make them better prepared to work with hemp, including what a certificate of analysis is and how to read one.

He added that the CHAMP blueprint will provide recommendations on dealing with other challenges, such as complaints about the hemp crop’s odor and the risk of cross-pollination from pollen drift.

Local governments have been asking the state to limit where hemp crops can be located due to these concerns, but the state is not planning to do so, Koontz said. The government is working with county commissioners to find other ways to address these problems, such as requiring a defensive boundary around the hemp crops to limit pollen drift while also making growers aware of each community’s concerns.