Agriculture

A New Public Private Partnership, the Colorado Hemp Advancement & Management Plan (CHAMP), Is Set to Strengthen the State’s Leadership Position in Hemp

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Originally appeared in the Let’s Talk Hemp Blog & Newsletter
By Steven Hoffman

With the passage in 2012 of marijuana legalization in Colorado, the hemp industry also got an early start in the state, and Colorado is now considered one of the country’s epicenters of hemp agriculture, manufacturing and production. To further that leadership position, Governor Jared Polis has created a unique new public-private initiative, the Colorado Hemp Advancement & Management Plan (CHAMP). His priority in establishing the CHAMP initiative is for “Colorado to remain an innovating force in the promotion of this high-value agricultural commodity,” says the CHAMP website.

Led by Betsy Markey, former Representative to U.S. Congress and current cabinet member of the Polis administration and Executive Director of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, along with Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture Kate Greenberg, CHAMP is a year-long statewide initiative that brings together state, local and tribal agencies, as well as industry experts in cultivation, testing, research, processing, finance, economics and marketing. The collaborative effort to help formulate a blueprint for Colorado’s hemp industry includes the Colorado Department of Agriculture, Governor’s Office, Department of Public Health and Environment, Department of Revenue, Department of Regulatory Agencies, Office of Economic Development and International Trade, Department of Public Safety, Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs, Department of Higher Education, local governments and industry experts.

“We had one of the first hemp programs in the country,” Greenberg recently told Westword Magazine. “We’ve got pretty incredible experience in Colorado; our state is set up for it, and our governor is all about hemp. It’s a fantastic time to be doing this work in Colorado, so I think by all accounts, we are ahead of the game. Our intent is to stay there,” she said. In addition to serving as Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture, Greenberg is the former Western Program Director of the National Young Farmers Coalition.

When asked about how to handle issues like “hot” hemp (hemp that exceeds the legal limit of THC), Greenberg said, “Before CHAMP, we didn’t have an avenue to figure these things out, so we took leadership in creating a structure that will allow regulatory agencies, industries, Native tribes, learning institutions and farmers to sit around a table and actually develop answers. There are still so many questions about the X, Y and Z of hemp — like interstate transport [and] how the Department of Public Safety can determine what is hemp and what is not. All of those questions finally have a table to sit at,” Greenberg said.

“CHAMP… is a huge, coordinated effort that includes anyone who has a stake in the game across Colorado, but it’s also going to be open-sourced,” Greenberg continued. “We’ve been talking to other states that don’t have programs, and are offering our expertise. We don’t see this as something we need to hold on to and keep away from everyone. We’ve got a national and international industry with this now, and we can’t keep it within closed borders in Colorado. This is going to have to include interstate commerce, and we really see our creativity and desire to bring in thought leaders as ways to continue our leadership,” she added.

“One way to establish our leadership is getting our state plan into the USDA. We’re in close communication with the USDA to make sure they see us as a partner in this, and that we are a resource. Submitting our state plan is big here, just to make sure our state’s hemp program is still a leader. Another one is the larger CHAMP report, which will show what it takes to grow our hemp industry beyond the Farm Bill. This is a big-vision process,” Greenberg said.

The CHAMP initiative is divided into eight “Stakeholder Groups,” including Research & Development and Seed; Cultivation; Transportation; Testing; Processing; Manufacturing (Food Commodities); Marketing; and Banking and Insurance. The stakeholder groups are scheduled to meet this summer and fall. In addition, leaders of the CHAMP initiative will hold several public meetings, with the first scheduled for Friday, August 16, 2019, in Hesperus, CO. To RSVP for the public meeting and for more information, visit https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/agplants/champ-initiative.

Editor’s Note: Morris Beegle, Co-founder of We Are for Better Alternatives (WAFBA), producer of the NoCo Hemp Expo, Southern Hemp Expo, Hemp on the Slope, Hawaii Hemp Expo and the Let’s Talk Hemp Podcast and Newsletter, was appointed to serve on the CHAMP Marketing Stakeholder Group. In addition, Steven Hoffman of Compass Natural, public relations agency of record for WAFBA and Editor of the Let’s Talk Hemp Newsletter, was also named to the CHAMP Marketing Stakeholder Group.

Butter Labeling Wars: Wisconsin Dairy Industry Takes On Plant-based “Butter”

Photo: Pexels

Photo: Pexels

Originally appeared in New Hope’s IdeaXchange, July 2019
By Steven Hoffman

Until recently, the U.S. dairy industry remained relatively quiet regarding the proliferation of plant-based products that use words such as “milk,” “yogurt” and “cheese. Now, lobbyists and policymakers for dairy producers in Wisconsin, the nation’s leading producer of butter made from cow’s milk and the state that calls itself “America’s Dairyland,” want to limit use of the word on plant-based products, such as the best-selling vegan “butter” sold by Miyoko’s Kitchen, reported Bloomberg News.  

This past spring, Wisconsin’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) instructed supermarkets to remove nondairy products that use the term “butter” on labels, based on complaints from dairy producers that these products don’t comply with the state’s definition of butter, which requires that butter be made from dairy-based milk or cream. After being singled out and pulled from several stores, Miyoko’s agreed to affix a sticker to the label that read “vegetable spread.”

Companies such as Miyoko’s are riding a wave of popularity for plant-based products, especially dairy alternatives, reports Fortune. Plant-based milk retail sales totaled $1.8 billion for the year ending May 25, 2019, a 6.5% increase, according to data shared from Nielsen. Cheese substitute sales totaled $117 million, showing 17.4% growth. Cashew butters were up to $12.6 million, representing an increase of 4.9%, Fortune reported.

Changing consumer preferences toward plant-based foods are often cited as a chief cause of dairy’s slow decline, however, vegan products using labels such as “milk” – or in this case, “butter” – are seen by the milk lobby as misleading consumers to unfairly steal market share.

An official at DATCP said the agency is not planning to enforce labeling laws on other dairy products, such as “milk,” however, it will follow the FDA’s lead in this regard. Regarding butter, however, “It’s been an important product.” Wisconsin products more than one third of all butter sold in the U.S., Fortune reported.

FDA, for its part, may seek to restrict use of such traditional dairy terms by plant-based food producers. As part of its Nutrition Innovation Strategy, FDA announced it is modernizing standards of identity, which “define through regulation certain characteristics, ingredients, and quality of specific foods,” said an agency statement from Scott Gottlieb, who served as FDA commissioner at the time of the strategy’s launch. However, a review commissioned by the Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA) reported that 76% of people who commented to the FDA were in favor of allowing plant-based products to continue using dairy terminology. 

“The entire debate over the use of the term milk and other dairy terms on plant-based foods and beverages is a solution in search of a problem,” Good Karma Foods CEO Doug Radi told Food Navigator USA in January 2019. “Plant-based foods that can directly replace dairy-based products make use of the same terminology (e.g. milk, butter, cheese) because they serve the same purposes and are used in almost exactly the same way as their dairy counterparts (in cereal, a glass, smoothies, coffee, etc.) Consumers understand words in context,” he said. “Consumers think these words represent proper descriptors for the products and do not believe we are trying to pass off our products as a dairy product. In fact, we would not be successfully doing so, as consumers buying our products are looking for alternatives to dairy,” Radi added.

Hemp Market Takes Off at Expo West

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For Presence Marketing Newsletter, April 2019
By Steven Hoffman

Anyone attending Natural Products Expo West, the world’s largest natural products trade show, held this past March, couldn’t help but notice that 2019 has emerged as “The Year of Hemp” in the natural and organic products market.

Indeed, the legalization of industrial hemp under the 2018 Farm Bill has been a boon for independent natural foods retailers, said Loren Israelsen, president of the United Natural Products Alliance. “For smaller stores, this category has been a lifeline for them as they battle to maintain foot traffic in the stores as online sales continue to grow.”  

Larger stores, too, are eyeing the hemp market: Boulder-based Lucky’s Market has taken the lead in hemp and CBD product sales in its stores nationwide, with full shelf sets in the natural living department. Ohio-based Mustard Seed Market’s supplement sales are being driven by its commitment to CBD products, says Nutrition Director Abraham Nabors. Whole Foods Market’s trend spotters identified hemp as a “top 10 food trend for 2019,” and recently, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey indicated the possibility of Whole Foods selling cannabis products should they become legal in the future.

According to Hemp Business Journal’s new report, The Global State of Hemp: 2019 Industry Outlook, U.S. sales of hemp products – from full-spectrum hemp extract and CBD products to hemp foods, textiles, building materials, bioplastics and more – estimated at $1 billion in 2018, are projected to grow 27% annually to reach $2.6 billion by 2022. Global hemp retail sales totaled $3.7 billion in 2018 and are projected to grow to $5.7 billion by 2020.

The passage of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, commonly known as the Farm Bill, in late December was nothing less than historic, legalizing for the first time in more than 80 years the commercial cultivation and sale of industrial hemp. “Most importantly, noted journalist Chris Chafin in Rolling Stone, “it removes hemp and any hemp derivative from the Controlled Substances Act, legally separating it from marijuana and putting its supervision under the Department of Agriculture. In the most basic sense, these plants serve three primary uses: fiber (paper and cloth), seeds (for hemp oil and food), and cannabinoid oils. It’s this last category that’s the most profitable and has the biggest potential for growth. The [Farm Bill] defines hemp as any part or derivative of cannabis with a THC level below 0.3 percent on a dry-weight basis,” Chafin reported.

Hemp Steals the Show at Expo West
Interest in the category was so strong at 2019 Natural Products Expo West that a full-day Hemp & CBD Summit held at the show spilled out beyond a 500-person ballroom into two other rooms where a similar-sized audience watched by live video feed. Also, during a panel discussion hosted by Presence Marketing and NCG at Expo West for over 150 retailers, CBD and hemp supply chain (e.g., ensuring that the full spectrum hemp extract products you carry are sourced from certified organic producers, etc.) dominated the discussion.

Full spectrum hemp and CBD products from new and national brands alike were introduced everywhere at the trade show: carob snacks with hemp extract from Missy J’s; CBD sparkling water from Weller; hemp-infused honey from Colorado Hemp Honey; CBD wellness shooters introduced by Navitas; organic full-spectrum hemp extract from Gaia Herbs, Charlotte’s Web, CV Sciences and others; hemp supplements by Leaf Therapeutics, a new brand launched by legacy brand Solaray; hemp gummies and caramels from Boulder-based Restorative Botanicals; CBD sports nutrition, hemp balms, hemp infused body care products and more. Honestly, what didn’t have CBD hemp extract at Expo West?

And that’s not to mention hemp foods derived from hemp seed – high in plant-based protein and omega-3 essential fatty acids, but with no CBD or cannabinoid compounds. Sold for over 20 years in natural foods stores, hemp seed-derived products are now widely regarded as superfoods. Brands such as Tempt, Manitoba Harvest, Evo Hemp and others presented new hemp food offerings at Expo West, capitalizing on heightened interest in all things hemp.

CBD or Hemp Extract?
The FDA may yet come out against use of the term “CBD.” While the agency is expected to review CBD and hemp extracts in food and supplements in the near future, according to outgoing FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, CBD isolate was approved as a drug by the agency after granting license for Epidiolex, the first pharmaceutical derived from cannabidiol (CBD), manufactured by the company GW Pharmaceuticals. The commissioner had recently spoken of a “pathway” to acceptance of hemp CBD as a dietary ingredient. However, with Gottlieb announcing his resignation in early March, many in the natural products industry are uncertain whether progress on FDA regulatory policy regarding hemp and CBD will be made.

However, judging from exhibit after exhibit on the trade show floor, you wouldn’t know the regulatory waters around the use of the term “CBD” are murky. For many exhibitors at Expo West, “CBD” was the go-to phrase on product packaging, literature and exhibit signage, while others more conservatively stuck to the phrase “full-spectrum hemp extract.” 

Despite FDA’s lack of a decision to date in this regard, manufacturers, retailers and consumers alike are responding positively to the use of CBD on the product label, and are not waiting for FDA to decide. This could be an issue down the road for many manufacturers, should the FDA decide to crack down on use of CBD on labels. The key, advised a number of speakers at the show, is avoid the use of CBD isolate in products and stick with full-spectrum hemp extract to avoid unwanted attention from the FDA. 

While "it’s still unclear how different federal agencies will interpret the new [Farm Bill] rules...it doesn’t matter — people in the CBD industry are calling the new legislation a game changer," observed Chafin in Rolling Stone.

Transparency and Testing Are Crucial
A major theme at Expo West’s Hemp & CBD Summit focused on manufacturers operating with safety and integrity, noted CBD Insider in a March 9, 2019, report. “To preserve integrity, businesses must always test their products, especially in these six areas: cannabinoid potency, residual solvents, heavy metals, pesticides, microbes, and terpenes. After this testing is complete and the products are verifiably ready for consumption, companies should be transparent with their testing and provide documentation of third-party lab results. Companies — and consumers — must do their homework and ask questions. If a laboratory, farmer, brand, or any other entity in the supply chain is not willing to be transparent, it’s a sign that you should do business elsewhere. Many of the speakers discussed how they personally vet businesses before working with them, such as requiring documentation or personally visiting the company’s facility,” reported CBD Insider.

In addition, and importantly, retailers and consumers should seek out hemp products that are grown in accordance with certified organic and preferably climate friendly regenerative practices, emphasized John Roulac, founder of Nutiva and RE: Botanicals, a new hemp “apothecary,” which debuted at Expo West. Beware of low-cost hemp extract products that may have been produced with industrial agriculture practices including toxic, synthetic pesticides and synthetic nitrogen fertilizers derived from natural gas and fracking – contributors to global warming – and extracted with toxic organic solvents, he cautioned.

U.S. Hemp Acreage – 80,000 Acres and Growing
Although hemp is now legal across the U.S., the message seems to be getting out slowly, and state and local authorities are still seizing hemp crops and truckers are being arrested for crossing state lines with container loads of harvested industrial hemp for processing, tying up individuals in jail and leaving valuable inventory in limbo.

Currently, nine states – Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, South Dakota, Iowa, Texas, and Connecticut – still prohibit hemp production under any circumstances. And four states – Idaho, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas – still prohibit hemp-derived CBD. “For now, transporting hemp across these state lines may still be as dangerous as it’s ever been,” reported science writer Leo Bear-McGuiness in Analytical Cannabis.  

Yet, “damn the torpedoes,” U.S. farmers are saying, as they respond to soaring demand by dedicating farmland to hemp cultivation, seeing it as a potential cash crop and an alternative to growing GMO corn, soy, tobacco and other commodity crops. 

According to hemp advocacy group Vote Hemp, the U.S. hemp crop tripled in 2018 to 78,176 acres, up from 25,713 acres in hemp cultivation in 2017. That figure is expected to grow now that the Farm Bill has opened the door nationwide to hemp production, says Vote Hemp. Montana emerged as the top hemp growing state in 2018, followed by Colorado, Oregon, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina and North Dakota, respectively, according to Vote Hemp.

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