STATE NEWS: Colorado Approves Hemp-Animal Feed Study

February 24, 2017
Kerry Lengyel

Hemp is currently a nonfood crop in the United States, but it has been said to improve the health of animals when used in animal feed.

A new bill passed in the Colorado Senate earlier this month that could potentially allow farmers to feed hemp to their livestock in the future.

The Senate voted unanimously to direct the Colorado Department of Agriculture to study whether it is feasible for farmers to use hemp in animal feed—a practice that is currently not allowed.

Hemp, a cousin of marijuana, is a non-intoxicating substance that has been proven to have several uses and benefits. The natural product is stronger and softer than cotton, making it a very durable substance for use in products ranging from rope, clothes, paper, and textiles to plastics, insulation, and biofuel.

Hemp is considered a nonfood crop, but the seed can and does appear on the UK market as a legal food product.

Hemp is said to improve an animal’s health when used in its normal diet. For cows, some say they give more milk and are especially healthy when fed hemp.

Cultivation of hemp fiber is also inexpensive, and the fiber is simple to produce.

The federal government has allowed farmers to grow hemp under limited circumstances since 2014. Today, Colorado has about 300 hemp growers.

When Washington State passed a similar bill in 2015, the state’s agriculture department (WSDA) conducted a study to determine whether hemp and hemp products should be permitted as a component of commercial feed for laying hens in Washington. Based on the results of that study, the WSDA concluded that hemp is not safe to use in poultry feed due to the lack of sufficient research on whether the intoxicant tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in marijuana could pass to the poultry that ingest the hemp.

Approval of this new study in Colorado could mean a huge change in the way farmers in the state feed their livestock. The measure regarding this new study has now moved on to the House for further action.