State legislature approves study for hemp use in livestock feed
March 26, 2017
Industrial Hemp Animal Feed
Senate Bill 109, sponsored by Sen. Kerry Donovan and Rep. Jeni Arndt, creates a group to study the inclusion of hemp products in animal feed. The group, headed by the commissioner of agriculture, would include a hemp producer, a hemp processor, a legal expert, a person from an institution of high education who’s studied hemp policy, a veterinarian, a livestock producer and anyone the commissioner determines useful to understanding other implications of hemp’s inclusion in animal feed. The group would make recommendations by Dec. 31. The bill passed the Senate 34-0 in February. Last week, it passed the House 63-0.
Colorado livestock could be eating hemp as early as next year, thanks to a bill directing the Colorado Department of Agriculture to study the use of industrial hemp in animal feed.
Mike Sullivan, the owner of Johnstown-based Hemp Farm Colorado, said the inclusion of hemp in animal feed could solve one of the biggest problems hemp farmers face.
"One of the real big problems with the hemp industry is there's hardly any processors out there that are buying materials straight from the farmer. This would be a great leap forward," he said.
The use of hemp in animal feed is forbidden because the Food and Drug Administration considers hemp an adulterating substance. State Sen. Kerry Donovan wrote and sponsored the bill after the hemp group GrowHempColorado.com contacted her family ranch.
“I think it would be great. They’ve long been feeding it to livestock over in Europe. Colorado likes to take a leading role in the hemp industry, and I guess this illustrates another way that they are doing so.
— Artie Elmquist, Weld County farmer
"After doing some more research on the issue, we found out there were some other states and businesses that had been basically 'flagged' for having hemp in their product," she said.
The bill passed the Legislature unanimously, and the governor signed it into law March 20. The study will be headed by the commissioner of agriculture and would result in a recommendation by the end of the year. The bill initially intended to allow hemp in livestock feed without a study, but Donovan said a study could help avoid further complications with the FDA.
"The study should figure out how to more effectively reach the goal of how we can use hemp without it being confiscated or the FDA sending letters of cease and desist," she said.
The federal government started allowing farmers to grow hemp under limited circumstances in 2014. Hemp is classified as the Cannabis sativa plant with a concentration of no more than 0.3 percent THC, the intoxicating substance found in marijuana.
Duane Sinning, the Department of Agriculture's assistant director of plant industries, said the Congressional Research Service identified 25,000 uses for industrial hemp in a report released this year. He said when any of those uses become well-known, it helps legitimize and fuel the industry.
"The growing of industrial hemp in the state is expanding so fast already that it's just a matter of which industries will use the product," Sinning said.
Sullivan said Hemp Farm Colorado already is contacting feed yards to find livestock producers interested in incorporating hemp. Hemp, which has several nutritional benefits, would be fed to livestock as a supplement. Hemp seed meal has a high content of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, as well as all known amino acids.
According to Hemp Foods Australia, the largest hemp food wholesaler, retailer, manufacturer and exporter in the Southern Hemisphere, hemp supplement improves digestion and increases life expectancy in livestock. Artie Elmquist, a farmer working to grow industrial hemp in southwest Weld, said he's heard the meat of hemp-fed livestock tastes great, too.
"I think it would be great. They've long been feeding it to livestock over in Europe," he said. "Colorado likes to take a leading role in the hemp industry, and I guess this illustrates another way that they are doing so."
Terry Fankhauser, executive vice president of the Colorado Cattlemen's Association, said the association opposed the original language of the bill and will likely continue to oppose hemp in cattle feed.
"I don't think anybody that is buying a gallon of milk or a pound of beef would want to have that adulteration of that food product contain any level of THC … As a parent of three children, any level is unacceptable in their food. I think the majority of consumers feel that way," Fankhauser said.
Steve Gabel, the owner of Wiggins' Magnum Feedyard, said he looks forward to making decisions based on the science of the study.
"If, in fact, it finds its way into beef rations and its impact does not tarnish the safe and healthy attributes of the product that we produce, I'm sure it'll find a spot," Gabel said.