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Hemp summit aims to jump-start industry
By Stan Maddux
Indiana Correspondent

MARTINSVILLE, Ind. – A crash course on raising hemp and getting the product to market is scheduled to try to jump start what’s been a slow start to the industry in some parts of the country.
The Midwest Hemp Council (MHC), with help from the Indiana Farmers Union, is hosting a Fiber Forum and Field Day. The Aug. 30 event in Martinsville will have two sessions from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Each session is limited to 50 guests. The cost is $25 for members and $50 for non-members. A sack lunch with a choice of ham, turkey or veggie sandwich, and apple or orange, chips and a cookie or brownie will be provided at 12:30 p.m. Bottled water will also be served.
The summit will be next to a 25-acre field of hemp at 6955 Hall School Road.
MHC Executive Director Jamie Campbell Petty said the primary reason for the forum is educating producers and others involved in the supply chain who jumped in without the knowledge needed for the industry to take off as expected.
“Everyone thinks, oh, its hemp.  It’s just another crop and it’s not. There are things to learn,” she said.
Experts from Purdue University will also be there to explain how to successfully grow hemp and the role genetics plays in raising a crop that doesn’t exceed the minimal levels of THC required in the cousin of marijuana.
Petty said various harvesting machines and other equipment will be on hand to help showcase the different methods of bringing hemp in from the fields depending on how the crop is going to be used.
She said an effort is also being made to bring in a decorticator, which strips the fiber from the stalks. The fiber is what goes into making clothing and other products.
Petty said the rest of the plant is used for things like animal bedding and construction products.
Other topics at the summit include pests affecting hemp, preparing the crop for processing, new and traditional uses of hemp fiber along with strategies for plugging gaps in the current supply chain.
“It’ll be kind of a seed to shelf type of experience,” she said.
Petty said other representatives from agriculture, legislators and potential investors who can use the information to assist in their decision making will also be in attendance.
Companies already using hemp in making things like wood floors and cardboard door panels for motor vehicles will also have a presence.
Petty said the focus will be on the industry in Indiana, which began allowing hemp to be raised commercially this year. Previously, hemp could be grown commercially in the state only with a license for research.
“We just want to walk people through what’s happening in the industry and, hopefully, get people a little more fired up in the state,” she said.
The Midwest Hemp Council is also highly involved in areas like advocating for industry friendly legislation and networking. The group, based in Indianapolis, is active as far west as Montana.
The highest demand for hemp, perhaps, comes from makers of CBD oil used for a wide range of medical conditions and wellness.
Petty said the supply chain difficulties were greatest and nationwide with hemp used for CBD oil. “Ultimately, the result was we overproduced. The entire country overproduced,” she said.
She also said some farmers had trouble with crops having THC levels above .03 percent because of poor genetics along with improper testing and harvesting methods. Hemp with THC amounts exceeding that level are considered more like marijuana and have to be destroyed.
Despite the slow beginnings, Petty said a lot of progress has been made in establishing the hemp industry in Indiana and surrounding states like Kentucky, Ohio and Illinois. She said continued education over a period of time is what’s needed for things to grow and prosper.
“We want everyone to succeed and we want the industry to succeed but it is a new industry. We compare it to the soybean industry.  It took 40 years for the soybean industry to reach maturation,” Petty said.