Ken Elliott, president and co-founder of IND HEMP in Fort Benton, Montana, is bringing a message to Pennsylvania hemp farmers.
Elliott will be giving the keynote speech at the Pennsylvania Hemp Summit on Nov. 14 at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
His message is all about how hemp can revitalize rural communities, just like IND HEMP has been able to do in Fort Benton, a town of less than 1,500 people.
“It’s about value-added agriculture,” Elliott said. “It’s about rural development and these small communities that are really facing some challenges.”
IND HEMP, which processes hemp for food, livestock feed and fiber, employs about 50 people, and could employ over 70 at full capacity.
But in order for Pennsylvania to have hemp processing plants similar to Elliott’s, he said the state’s legislators need to act and make hemp grain legal to feed to livestock.
“If you want a plant like we have to come to Pennsylvania communities — and I think Pennsylvania could have five or six of these facilities — you’ve got to allow us to feed the grain to animals,” Elliott said.
Currently, hemp grain is allowed by the USDA to be used in food for human consumption, but is not nationally approved in livestock feed. Some states, like Montana, have allowed it, but Pennsylvania has not.
Elliott is hopeful that he’ll have a chance to talk to some of the commonwealth’s legislators at the Hemp Summit to explain the importance of allowing excess grain to be fed to livestock.
“From the industry standpoint, I cannot build another one of these grain facilities if I don’t have a way of selling the product that I’m making,” Elliott said.
He encourages Pennsylvania farmers to reach out to their legislators on the issue.
But this issue could also be solved on a national level, and Elliott is working on that as well. He is a member of the Hemp Feed Coalition which is working to get hemp grain approved as a livestock feed nationally.
The process of getting hemp feed approved is a long and expensive one. The coalition needs to apply separately for each breed of livestock, and each application costs about $300,000 and can take over three years to get approved.
Since hemp grain is already USDA approved for human consumption, Elliott is hopeful that the coalition can get the USDA to approve hemp feed across the board, which will save years of filling out individual applications.
“I can feed all of that grain that I want to my babies,” Elliott said. “So if it’s OK for my babies, it’s probably OK for that chicken who’s going to make an egg that I’m going to feed to my child.”
Getting the livestock feed approved in Pennsylvania is a necessary step for success, Elliott said. But he’s confident that Pennsylvania farmers could succeed with the plant. The crop could easily be added to a corn and soybean rotation, he said.
In addition to hemp grain, hemp straw can be processed for fiber, and the pulp can be used for things like hempcrete.
“For us out here in Montana, and I think especially in Pennsylvania as well, (hemp is) an opportunity that doesn’t come any other way,” Elliott said.
Elliott will deliver his keynote speech on the first day of the Pennsylvania Hemp Summit at 5:30 p.m. Following Elliott’s speech will be an industry and legislator panel on fiber and grain at 6 p.m.
The second day of the conference on Nov. 15 will run from 8 a.m. until 6:30 p.m.