Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper recently signed a law that allows for a study of the feasibility of hemp products in livestock feed and pet food.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Kerry Donovan and Rep. Jeni Arndt, passed the legislature unanimously.
The use of hemp is not allowed in animal feed because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers hemp an adulterating substance. In the U.S., imported hemp can be used legally in human food products.
The group that will lead the feasibility study will include a hemp producer, a hemp processor, a legal expert, a person from an institution of higher education who has studied hemp policy, a veterinarian and a livestock producer. The group is expected to reach its conclusions and make its recommendations by the end of 2017.
Hollis Glenn, technical services section chief for the Colorado Department of Agriculture, said in a phone interview that the study will try to discover the path forward to hemp becoming a legally approved ingredient, and identify stakeholders’ obstacles and concerns on the issue, including social, political and economic concerns.
“The hemp industry understands complexities of putting hemp into food chain,” Glenn said. The study will “provide a resource to industry and consumers to understand the complexity of this issue.”
More options for hemp growers
Donovan, who runs her family’s small ranch in Colorado, introduced the bill in the state Senate after a hemp group contacted her.
“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 in a report. “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.”
In a phone interview with WATTAgNet, Donovan said she hopes the study will come up with best practices for using hemp in animal feeds, as well as expanding uses for the state’s hemp crop and giving hemp growers more options.
“What I’ve seen as a smaller-scale producer is you need as many options as possible in the things you can grow and raise,” she said.
Hemp is rich in protein, B vitamins, manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, iron, dietary fiber and essential fatty acids. While there hasn’t been much scientific research on the effects of hemp in animal feed, there is some data that shows promising benefits in layer hens.