Hemp high dulls among growers

Lack of seed frustrates farmers, advocates

You reap what you sow unless you are without seed.

The lack of available seed has left two Montezuma County farmers permitted to cultivate industrial hemp test plots this year holding their plows.

“We are having an impossible time getting seed,” said Merle Root of Pleasant View.

Root and Scott Perez of Mancos had both banked on obtaining hemp seeds from Chris Boucher, vice-president of U.S. Hemp Oil in California. In addition to seed, both farmers were also under the impression that Boucher would pay for water fees.

“U.S. Hemp will not contact us and won’t return our calls,” said Root. “I’m looking everywhere to find seed. I can’t tell you how disappointed I am at this point.”

James McVaney, director of Industrial Hemp in Colorado, said he too had attempted to contact various seed suppliers, but to no avail.

“The seed people are still incommunicado,” said McVaney.

Sharon Stewart, who has spearheaded a local industrial hemp advocacy group called Hemp Talks, is unsure if industrial hemp would be grown in Montezuma County this year, adding that the crop’s planting window would close soon.

“We are trying to source seed from all over Colorado and Canada,” she said.

Last fall, McVaney told area farmers that they would be forced to “cross a gray legal line” to obtain hemp seeds, saying industrial hemp remains classified as a controlled substance under federal guidelines.

Earlier this year, fears of breaking the law were dampened when the U.S. House of Representatives blocked the Drug Enforcement Administration from using funds to interfere in state-legal industrial hemp research. Colorado legalized industrial hemp production last year.

Paying a $100 fee, Root and Perez both applied with state agriculture officials to grow industrial hemp test plots. Perez had planned to grow a one-acre plot, and Root intended to grow 10 acres.

Stewart said other farmers had expressed interests in growing industrial hemp, but they decided to “wait and see” because of concerns over seed availability, water issues and federal laws.

Some 100 Colorado farmers were approved to grow close to 1,300 acres of industrial hemp this year.

Historical data from the Mt. Lookout Grange in Mancos reveals industrial hemp was once a big agricultural product locally.

Attempts to reach Boucher for comment were unsuccessful.