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NoCo9 Speaker Spotlight Series: Hunter Buffington of Agriculture Policy Solutions

Hunter Buffington

Hemp Business

NoCo9 Speaker Spotlight Series: Hunter Buffington of Agriculture Policy Solutions

Hunter Buffington, partner in the newly formed Agriculture Policy Solutions, a woman-owned and -operated consulting firm, spoke to Let’s Talk Hemp from Fort Collins, Colorado.

How did you become interested in hemp and how did your background get you here?
I grew up in Wyoming working on a ranch. I was in 4-H and FFA and spent a lot of time in rural communities. At Colorado State University, I studied physical anthropology to learn the human aspect of how we interact with our world, and then decided to focus on how to work to evolve and change the world I live in. I finished my formal education with a master’s at Regis University in sustainability development with application of open systems.

My focus when I work with clients is on the triple bottom line: economics, environment and social responsibility. After a lot of public policy and advocacy work on climate mitigation in Colorado and internationally, I found I was doing all of this work on hemp, and it united my ag background with the sustainability and mitigation work that I was doing at the time (in 2014). I realized hemp was an emerging economy that needed a lot of assistance.

When I do systems work, the biggest barrier is always policy. Always. Hemp is an area where I can represent farmers who are impacted and assist agencies to develop appropriate regulations. I always bring science and data into political conversations. That allows for emotion to be removed and for data and applications to be more of a basis for policy. We all want a vibrant future and enough resources for our children and grandchildren. Hemp provides an opportunity to do work that engages and challenges me. My focus on grain and fiber for food, feed and sustainable materials meets my personal and professional goals.

Tell me about Agriculture Policy Solutions (APS)
It’s brand new. It’s a woman-owned and -operated consulting company. All three of us were raised in ag: I grew up ranching, Tillery Sims is a seventh-generation large commodity farmer, and Jessica Scott is from a homesteading family using ag every day. Hemp brought us together. 

I have done a lot of work with hemp feed and I wanted to move forward with a GRAS notice for hempseed meal and oil. My partners and I worked together to bring the Texas memorandum to fruition and a GRAS acceptance in Kentucky. We look at ag policy and how to support the farmer to have measurable impacts to drive rural development. 

Hemp is a grain product. To this day, people ask me if feeding hemp to their animals will get them high. We need to get over these concerns for animal feed. Just think about the import export marketplace. Animal feed is a great opportunity to move the industry forward.

What are the areas of consensus among hemp advocates in your policy work?
There is consensus among advocates that hemp grain products for animal feed need to be more widely approved and used. Hemp is a lot safer than some feed used today. 

There is also broad consensus that a level of Δ9 -THC of 1% at the farm gate is a better limit than .3%. 

There is also a need to more rigorously put into place the dual designation for hemp as a commodity and a specialty crop. Grain/fiber and flower are not regulated differently and that needs to be changed. We are working on a “fit for purpose” model to regulate grain like a raw ingredient instead of the entire plant. Components with different purposes should be regulated differently.

When hemp is grown as a broad outdoor acre crop (grain and fiber), it needs to be treated like every other agricultural crop with commodity insurance and even the COMET program, which USDA uses to measure carbon sequestration in soils. COMET does not currently have hemp as a selection. This is a massive barrier to sustainability and lifecycle assessment (LCA) work that needs to be done for the hemp industry. Not being in the COMET program is another place where hemp is not being treated like other commodities.

We need to allow cannabinoid cultivation to continue as a specialty crop and allow broad acre production outdoors — hundreds of thousands of acres can be treated like corn and wheat.

We have reached consensus to create a hemp fiber quality and standards lab or center. This was established in 1937 for cotton in New Orleans, and we would like to see that happen for hemp. It would make American hemp competitive with other natural fibers that have never experienced prohibition. 

What do you have planned for 2023? 
I am working with ASTM facilitating a workshop on quantifying cannabinoids in animal feed on April 24 and 25. Workshop on the Analytical Methods for Hemp Products as Animal Feed: How to Overcome Gaps in Matrices, Detectors and Quantifiable Limits for Regulators and Laboratories.

In August I will lead a session for the Institute for Cannabis Research to talk about policy and regulation. Another session will jump off from the ASTM workshop, and the last session will focus on updates to clinical feed trials. 

For my own goals, I want to find partners to do LCA work. The APS team will be working on moving animal feed forward, with a focus on the science that needs to be done so hemp can take its place in these markets. 

What will you talk about at NoCo9?
I will be on a panel that will discuss the challenges and opportunities as hemp in animal feed continues to grow as a sector of the industry. We will look at feed ingredients, the current status at both federal and state levels, and current research initiatives. I’d like to put in front of the audience and other industry experts the idea of a THC-free label. That is desirable for international markets and for feed. 

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