Holmes speaks at Northeast Nebraska Hemp Farmers Forum
Pilger, Nebraska, a small community of approximately 370 people, had its community center full to capacity on Friday, August 16 for the Northeast Nebraska Hemp Farmers Forum. Organized by the Midwest Hemp Forum, an educational non-profit organization, over 200 people were in attendance (primarily farmers) to learn more about hemp, a booming crop that could have a drastic shift on the agricultural landscape in Nebraska, and already has in other parts of the country.
Dr. Andrea Holmes, a chemistry professor at Doane, spoke during a special Q&A session at the forum alongside Dr. Ismail Dweikat, agronomy and horticulture professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Dr. Allen Jenkins, an economics professor at the University of Nebraska-Kearney. Holmes, Dweikat, and Jenkins are considered academic experts in the cannabis industry.
Dr. Holmes was the main driving force behind Doane’s Professional Cannabis Certificate Program, which will be offered later this year. Holmes spent her sabbatical in the 2018-19 school year in Colorado, where she worked at AgriScience Labs, a state-certified marijuana testing facility. Holmes saw the many benefits of cannabis and co-founded Precision Plant Molecules in Colorado, which focuses on hemp extraction and non-psychotropic cannabinoids.
“We are tearing down the stigma of cannabis,” Holmes said to the crowded room of farmers from across the state. “Nebraska is on the verge of an agricultural revolution. We are standing at this amazing treasure trove and are just looking at the surface.”
Along with Holmes, Dweikat, and Jenkins, the forum featured speakers from local hemp companies including Bish Enterprises - Hemp Harvest Works (Giltner), Hemp Technology Innovations, and CBD hemp farmers in Oregon, Canada, and Tennessee.
The Hemp Farmers Forum was the third held in Nebraska to date. The first two forums, held in Clatonia and David City, drew a combined 230 people. Midwest Hemp Forum will host another forum in York in October, which they are expecting their biggest crowd for.
“It’s been over 80 years since Nebraskans have grown hemp,” said Colin Fury, a forum representative. “Nebraska used to be the third largest industrial hemp producer in the United States. Since that generational knowledge has been lost, we’re looking to put on educational forums so farmers are able to make a proper opportunity cost decision as to whether or not hemp is the type of crop option they would like to diversity with in their agricultural operation.”
After hosting three forums in Nebraska Fury says it’s not difficult to understand why so many Nebraska farmers are interested in growing hemp. “Folks have been seeing farmers in other states like Tennessee and Oregon make over $75,000 per acre on CBD crop and farmers in places like Manitoba make $2,500 per acre on fiber and seed production,” he says. “I’m excited to see farmers in Nebraska partake in some of that prosperity.”
Sara Abler, of Norfolk, was at the forum and says she is interested in taking courses in Doane’s Professional Cannabis Certificate Program. She says she has used CBD oil that has helped with her inflammation and is interested in learning more about the science behind it.
“I think the ag community in Nebraska is really going to embrace hemp because it will go into their crop rotation nicely and take things out of the soil that need to be out,” she said. “I think our farmers are tired of not having a really good cash crop and this could be it.”
After President Trump signed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, which legalizes industrial hemp that has a THC concentration of less than 0.3%, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts signed the Nebraska Hemp Farming Act (LB657) into law earlier this year, which recognized hemp as a viable agricultural crop. This year, Nebraska licensed only 10 entities to grow hemp but there is anticipated to be no cap on that number next year.
Hemp, which comes from the cannabis plant, refers to the non-psychoactive (less than 0.3% THC) varieties of cannabis sativa. THC is the chemical responsible for providing psychoactive effects prevalent in marijuana.
Hemp is one of the oldest domesticated crops, used for paper, textiles, and rope for thousands of years. It was one of the largest rotation crops in the country prior to prohibition. According to a recent report farmers grew more than 78,000 acres of legal hemp last year, up from 26,000 acres in 2017. That number is projected to be over 125,000 acres of hemp grown nationally in 2019.
“We’re seeing Doane go where the market is going,” Fury said. “CBD is projected to be a $22 billion industry within the next five years in America. There is a great interest and everyone is still learning but there is so much growth in the industry that will be coming.”