Uncertainty about the demand for hemp products in the long run – and the potential for oversupply – discounted the prospects for hemp as an economically viable alternative crop for Colusa County farmers, county officials said.
“The market is still in its development,” said Supervisor Denise Carter.
Colusa County approved an ordinance allowing cultivation of industrial hemp on properties zone foothill agriculture and exclusive agriculture on Jan. 22, 2020, with the intent of issuing up to 20 licenses with a total grow area of 3,000 acres.
Although there were seven initial applications, only six applications were approved totaling 790 acres. Of those, only two of those growers actually planted seed, totaling 23 acres.
Community Development Director Greg Plucker said that oversupply of hemp was the result of limited production facilities in the region, and that the retail market has not matured enough to absorb the available production.
Although there have been requests for the board to deregulate some of the local growing requirements and extend hemp production to include the upland foothill region, Plucker believes it is not prudent for the county to do so at this time because the county’s hemp ordinance requirements have not been tested as robustly as they would have been, had there been 20 licensed crops last year.
Of the two hemp sites, Plucker said, one grower from out of the county had several compliance issues, involving unpermitted camping and adherence to Colusa County agriculture standards and state industrial hemp regulations.
“Because of this, staff believes that it would be prudent to update the industrial hemp compliance enforcement provision so that county staff has the discretion to not issue an industrial hemp license to a grower/land owner that willfully failed to comply with county and state regulations the previous year,” he added.
Current regulations imposed on hemp production includes a submitted security plan, approved by the Sheriff, a $2,500 deposit for law enforcement, and state issued permits, which came with a number of strict regulations, such as testing for the amount of THC, the psychoactive compound that distinguishes hemp from its more potent cousin, cannabis. New state regulations for hemp production are also going into effect, including FBI background checks and fingerprinting.
While the cannabis market has taken off, U.S. markets for hemp fiber for use in the production of specialty textiles and composites are likely to remain small, thin markets, especially after the debilitating effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the AP. ♣