Farmers Hope African Crop is Steppingstone To Hemp

Farmers Hope African Crop is Steppingstone To Hemp
Posted by FoM on July 12, 2001 at 21:35:49 PT
By Jim Getz of the Post-Dispatch
Source: STLtoday
As he walks through one of his fields in eastern Jersey County, lifelong farmer Larry Moore is surrounded by 3,500 acres of corn and soybeans. But at 54, after decades of raising traditional row crops, Moore is walking through a three-acre field far more exotic than anything he has planted in the past - and, he hopes, something that will lead to a far more profitable future. It's kenaf, a west African plant whose fibers can be turned into paper or potentially into twine, rope, mats, carpeting or fiberboard. Blended with Canadian hemp and polypropylene plastic, it can form composites that Daimler-Chrysler is using in automotive door panels. 
Along with other farmers in Omni Ventures Inc., a 2-year-old corporation formed among 30 members of farm bureaus in six southwestern Illinois counties, Moore hopes that kenaf will - if the growing of hemp is legalized in the United States - enable growers to profit through what his group calls value-added agriculture. In the concept of value-added agriculture, farmers make money and have more control by selling processed end products - such as ethanol, for example - instead of just crops. "With the state of the farm economy, you need something better if you can find it," Moore said, surveying the dark green plants that have grown 3 1/2 feet since being planted May 9. Speaking of Omni Ventures, he adds, "We're hoping to be far enough along that we'll be ahead of others." Omni Ventures hopes to be ahead if hemp cultivation is made legal in the United States. The effort with kenaf is designed to be a steppingstone to the goal of growing and processing both plants. Though Canadian farmers have been able to apply for a license to grow hemp since 1998, hemp's relation to its cousin marijuana has stymied efforts for similar legalization in the United States. Proponents say that hemp contains only one-tenth to one-twentieth the intoxicant that marijuana does, and that cross-pollination results in a plant with drastically reduced levels of the intoxicant. It doesn't help kenaf growers that despite its being related to cotton and okra, the plant sometimes produces three or five leaves resembling marijuana. But anyone trying to smoke kenaf may be in for an unpleasant surprise. "You won't die," said one Omni Ventures member at the corporation's monthly meeting at the Jersey County Farm Bureau, "but you'll wish for 10 days that you had." "We're learning a lot" For now, the half-dozen or so Omni members growing test plots of kenaf say they're like the blind leading the blind. They're not sure which fertilizers, if any, will help - or kill. Only through reading do they know to harvest it when the stalk reaches a thickness of three-quarters of an inch, when the plants are 10 or 12 feet tall. "That's why they call them test plots, boys," Omni's president, Gary Knecht, told the group at the monthly gathering. "None of us knows a damn thing about kenaf, but we're learning a lot." Although some kenaf has been grown and processed for a few years in Mississippi and eastern Texas, Illinois may be pushing kenaf's limits as far as yield, Knecht said, but one thing is sure: Canada needs U.S. kenaf growers. "We're not sure whether we can raise kenaf in our climate," he said, "but they definitely can't grow it up there." So Omni Ventures has formed an agreement with Hempline Inc., a 7-year-old venture that operates a plant in Delaware, Ontario. It refines hemp into textiles, paper, mulch and horse bedding. Hempline has agreed to buy some of Omni Ventures' kenaf this year for eventual blending into door panels for Daimler-Chrysler. But Hempline President Geof Kime is not sure how much he'll be paying once the crop is harvested, some time next month. "I can't put a real number on that today because it depends on so many factors," he said. But he added that market interest in natural fibers continues to grow. "The ultimate markets are going to range, but in terms of the composite technology you have in molded car parts like package trays, rear linings of trunks, you can extend this into a whole range of consumer goods, such as sporting products like canoes." Kime said. But ultimately, Omni Ventures members know that the key to their business is for hemp to be legalized - and for them not only to be able to grow it but to have enough money to invest in a Hempline-type processing plant. "Once you've processed the material," he said, "the end products usually ship quite well without any difficulties." Kime said emotions are clouding the legalization issue in the United States. "It takes political courage to stand up for it, and I question whether there's the courage in the United States to do that," he said. In Illinois, the Legislature has sent Gov. George Ryan a bill authorizing the University of Illinois and Western Illinois University to grow test plots of hemp. "We're buying hemp products from all over the world, cosmetics and clothing and everything else," said state Sen. Evelyn Bowles, D-Edwardsville, who promoted the bill for the second legislative session in a row. "It just seems silly to put the cork in the bottle of studying it," she said. "They can say it's not a valuable crop, but how would they know?" Ryan's spokesman, Ray Serati, said the governor's legislative analysts are still reviewing the bill. He has until mid-August to veto it, or it becomes law without his signature. "In this bill, we addressed every possible concern the governor had in the original bill," Bowles said. "We met with the governor, the State Police, the university people. We feel that surely he will sign the bill this time to allow the study. That's all we're asking for at this time." E-mail: jgetz Source: STLtoday (MO)Author: Jim Getz of the Post-DispatchPublished: July 12, 2001Website:'s Hemp Links Hemp Archives 
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Comment #3 posted by mayan on July 13, 2001 at 17:46:25 PT
Go hemp!
Governor Ryan is stalling on this hemp-study bill. He'll wait until the last possible moment to act. If he vetoes it I believe our general assembly has the votes to overide it. He caved in to pressure from the IDEA(Illinois Drug Education Alliance) & vetoed the last one. Those ladies from Naperville are dumber than rocks. Save Hemp!http://www.votehemp.comWoody's new site
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Comment #2 posted by sm247 on July 13, 2001 at 07:34:18 PT
Extra Extra
News flash... Drug Enforcement Agents from the DEA storm the Smithsonian Institute early this morning at 4:20 and siezed the United States Constitution leaving behind only undetectable trace amounts of THC citing new regulations banning HEMP by-products leaving the American people with no rights whatsoever Stay tuned for future developments...Later that day...  4:20 pm DEA press release brings us shocking news ..the U.S Constitution has been reported missing from the DEA siezure room an unprecedented reward of $420 U.S. dollars has been announced for any information leading to the missing HEMP document!The morning after...In breaking news a crimestoppers tip was traced to Hillary Clinton it seems the constitution has been found. We have reports that she noticed her bedroom smelled peculiar something familier though like Monika's undies ..after searching the room she found the U.S. Constitution under her bed rolled up and half smoked..."Silly Bill" she said, "You can't get high off HEMP even if YOU DID INHALE" 
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Comment #1 posted by CorvallisEric on July 12, 2001 at 23:20:16 PT
Another kind of counter-productivity
Two scenarios:1 - Feds relent, state opposition quickly crumbles, farmers are allowed to grow hemp with tolerable restrictions. They make money - less than the optimists claim - but enough to make it worthwhile for some. End of hemp as political issue. Hemp farmers remain typically rural-conservative, most opposed to legalization of marijuana.2 - Status quo, feds remain adamant, some states start research only. Ever growing number of farmers feels screwed by govt. on this issue, perhaps imagining loss of greater hemp income than is realistic. More kinship toward MJ users and increased support for legalization.
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