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Hemp is remaking agriculture in Colorado


Rockies Today

October 24 · Issue #22 · View online
The big stories up and down the Rocky Mountains, curated by Mountain West News

Hemp is remaking agriculture in Colorado
The Colorado Sun published three stories today on the state’s booming hemp industry, which leads the nation in production. In the past year, more than 80,000 acres have been planted by more than 2,500 farmers. That’s a 50,000-acre jump from the previous year.  And 52 of Colorado’s 64 counties now have registered hemp crops, as the Sun reports.
A hemp green rush is remaking agriculture in Colorado—complete with get-rich CBD dreams and flimflam profiteers A hemp green rush is remaking agriculture in Colorado—complete with get-rich CBD dreams and flimflam profiteers
Since December, when the federal 2018 Farm Bill moved hemp out of a controlled-substances drug classification and deemed it to be an ordinary commodity, growers around Delta and in all of Colorado’s agricultural regions have been racing to get in on the ground-level of a hemp frenzy. 
It is driven by a big demand for the all-purpose, officially-unproven magic elixir of CBD oil. Consumers are snapping it up to treat everything from eczema to depression, and in the process, pushing the outer limits of profits for growers as sky high as $60,000 an acre.  
The promise of hemp riches that far outstrip the going rate for traditional crops has unleashed what growers are referring to as a modern version of the Gold Rush. This rush has the same outsized get-rich-quick dreams, the naivete, the flimflam profiteers and the downright crooks. 
The payoffs are big for some who have learned to navigate the still-murky complexities of the newly legal status of hemp while also beating the traditional gamble involved in any farm crop. The failures can be huge for others.
“This started out as the Wild, Wild West. It evolved into a full-on 1894 Gold Rush. And it’s about to turn into a full-on Chicago fire,” said Matt Miles, a Uncompahgre Valley entrepreneur who recently opened the General Processing hemp plant in Delta.
Pueblo saw hemp as an economic opportunity, so it pounced with taxpayer dollars and hopes of growing big business
Greeley still shuns marijuana, but it’s starting to embrace hemp as a new cash crop
Economics, not fish, could doom Snake River dams
The latest story in the E&E News series “Bloodbath: Red ink pours over Northwest dams” examines the economic viability of four Snake River Dams battered by falling prices for renewable energy, aging turbines and growing environmental mitigation costs.
The new weapon in the war over dam removal: Economics The new weapon in the war over dam removal: Economics
LOWER GRANITE DAM, Wash. — The decadeslong Pacific Northwest salmon war may be nearing the end.
But it’s economics, not fish, that could be the demise of four dams at the center of the fight.
The dams on the Lower Snake River — besieged by conservationists and biologists for killing fish — are now battered by falling prices for renewable energy, skyrocketing replacement costs for aging turbines and a growing tab for environmental mitigation.
“The jig is up,” said Daniel Malarkey, a senior fellow at the Sightline Institute, a regional think tank focused on energy, economic and environmental policy. “We had this super-cheap power relative to other resources, and we’ve piled a bunch of extra costs on it.”
The Lower Snake River dams account for 5% to 13% of the Bonneville Power Administration’s power generation. But due to river flow conditions and endangered species requirements for fish, they produce far less than their capacity — and they are most productive at exactly the wrong time.
When power demand is high, supply from the eastern Washington dams is low. When demand is low, the dams produce too much electricity when combined with BPA’s other generation.
In fact, the Lower Snake River dams produce less power than BPA sends out of its service area in the region.
There are other factors, as well, including BPA’s financial health. The federal power agency is $15 billion in debt, and its electricity rates have climbed 30% since 2008 as the wholesale market has fallen due to growing supplies of wind, solar and natural gas.
Hydropower is no longer the Northwest’s cheapest energy, and if BPA wants to get its books in order, critics say, it should start by removing expensive and possibly money-losing assets like the four Lower Snake River dams from its books.
“They could reduce their surplus and get out from some of those recovery costs by actually recovering the fish,” said Jim Norton of the Idaho Conservation League and Columbia Rediviva project.
And speaking of salmon, a Los Angeles Times long-read and video published Wednesday on Alaska’s proposed Pebble Mine:
This Alaska mine could generate $1 billion a year. Is it worth the risk to salmon?
Alaska's Pebble Mine would risk sustainable salmon for copper and gold
Wolverines, turkeys, grizzlies and grouse
Rounding up wildlife news from around the Mountain West:
Urge to view bruins collides with growing population of bears, tourists Urge to view bruins collides with growing population of bears, tourists
Montana renews calls for Yellowstone-area grizzly delisting in latest court brief
Looking for wolverines: Idaho Fish and Game installs camera traps to track the illusive critter
Inland Northwest’s thriving turkey population is an invasive nuisance or a conservation success—or both
Gunnison sage grouse population numbers decline to alarming low, non-profit says
Migration corridor debate takes center stage as governor, Legislature wrestle over policy
Montana's largest coal mine shuts down
Coal mine closes, Montana denies new owner permit Coal mine closes, Montana denies new owner permit
More on the closure of the eighth-largest coal mine in the country:
Purchase of Spring Creek mine leads to suspended operations
Meanwhile, in Wyoming…
U.S. suit against Blackjewel gets Wyoming miners $793K in wages
What else we're reading today
North America's best ski routes are disappearing
Outdoor groups launch legal campaign against e-bikes
Electric bicycles take Asia, Europe by storm. Is Montana next?
How Big Rec chooses its public-lands battles
The Forest Service is about to set a giant forest fire—on purpose
Six months after Colorado’s sweeping oil and gas law took effect, fight over path forward hasn’t faded
Rockies Today is edited by Matthew Frank, Fellow in Regional Journalism at the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West at the University of Montana.
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O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana, 59812