Terry and Gina Miller live on a 100-acre in Orleans County, but have always rented out the land. Terry is a retired UPS driver, but Gina is an experienced organic grower, so in 2015 they decided to try growing 5 acres of organic garlic. The crop soon grew in popularity and the Millers felt encouraged enough to expand on their efforts of farming. In 2018 the couple grew a test plot of hemp as rotational crop.
Last week they took part in a event at the Cornell Cooperation on the industrial side of the hemp industry, as well as the history of the cannabis plan presented by the Niagara County Farm Bureau. Assemblyman Angelo Morinello was in attendance and said later he’d supported the Hemp Bill since his first term. State Senators Rob Ortt and Assemblyman Michael Norris were also present.
Explained Morinello, “There are misconceptions about hemp, and most people’s misconception is that hemp is just marijuana with THC. There is industrial hemp which is a fiber which has two purposes, one has the CBD oils and creams that have been proven to show assistance in arthritis and other ailments. The other is the stalk which can be used for many, many reasons. You can make clothing, you can make bio-degradable plates, containers, you can make paper.”
Morinello said the crop is “an all green product” is resilient, and helps farmers in that it adds nutrients to the soil and it does eat up carbon dioxide.
Gina Miller said said hemp is different than any other plant she’d ever grown — you have to know the difference between the male and the female.
“So, I’m a vegetable grower, I put a tomato plant in, I get tomatoes,” she said. “I don’t worry about male/female. When you’re growing hemp, and you’re growing from seed, un-feminized seed, probably 45% to 50% of the seeds you plant will be males, and they have to be pulled out of the field if you’re growing for flower, for CBD content. That was one of our growing pains.”
Another “growing pain” had to do with the legalities of their crop. Jeanette Miller of the Eclectic Farmstead and a director on the Niagara County Farm Bureau Board explained what to look forward to in regard to hemp laws, nationally and on the state level.
“As of March 8 the senate bill will come into effect, regulating hemp and hemp abstracts and that was very well promoted by our senators,” she said. “However, if the governor signs the budget, on July 1 the Cannabis Regulation Taxation Act takes effect, then it will officially repel some of that senate bill, and make it void. So, this will happen, but less than a month later, this will void it.”
“But then, the USDA is also governing on a federal level and they told all the states now, with the USDA interim rule, that they need to send a plan from their own state to regulate this hemp statement and if they don’t, as of Oct. 31 the state will lose their right to govern their own program and USDA will be governing programs that don’t have their own plan,” Miller continued, “New York Agricultural Markets has stated that they are currently not putting forth a plan. So, as of Nov. 1, farmers will have to cut their crop early, or they will have to comply with USDA regulations, which are very unclear at this point.”
“There’s a whole bunch of legal issues, which is the reason we’re having this,” Terry Miller said. “Number one, It’s for everybody to learn and, number two, if you’re thinking of growing hemp as a business, know what you’re getting into. You can grow it, you can harvest it and do a great job at everything, but when it comes to selling it, and processing it, there’s a whole bunch of legal hoops to run. … After it’s tested, there’s not a reason on the planet you can’t be in a market like an apple or an onion or garlic.”