County of Wetaskiwin reeve Kathy Rooyakkers has been appointed by council to represent the county on a steering committee: Regional Framework to Develop Hemp Industry. Council’s decision came during its Feb. 7 meeting.
Rooyakkers, CAO Frank Coutney and Rob Valdes, director of the Joint Economic Development Initiative, attended a meeting at the Clean Energy and Technology Centre in Drayton Valley on Dec. 16, 2016, regarding the economic opportunities for the hemp industry in the region and how major stakeholders can collaborate to grow the industry in the region.
“They talked quite a bit about the industry, where it’s going, what is happening with it,” said Coutney, referring to stakeholders who attended the December meeting.
“It looks like there’s gaps within the industry. From suppliers to the end product,” he added.
The material being used in Drayton Valley is transported from southern Alberta before then being moved to Vegreville to be separated into different products, says Coutney and Rooyakkers.
“But to grow hemp, what we have now, Leduc has just seen the hemp nuts where the seed can go,” she added.
Coun. Lyle Seely questioned what the long term goals of the steering committee are. He says there have been other committees for other topics that resulted in no action.
“It’s to develop a framework … they have all these issues but they don’t know where they’re going yet. And the intent of this committee is to look at economic development in the area, what economic development would look like.” said Coutney.
With a framework the industry could eventually be introduced to the farming community.
Rooyakkers says there is a hopeful end goal to development: multiple hemp production plants in the region. The issue with Drayton Valley is the high cost to transport material there.
“They’re making fiber mats that they put on roads that will suck up moisture. They said they’re using it all over in the ditches,” said Rooyakkers. She also mentioned there was is a contract to make car door panels out of the material in place.
“This could be another added value product for the farming industry,” said Coutney.
“It’s good to be on the leading edge,” said Coun. Keith Johnson.
However, to grow the material producers have to be approved by the federal government.
Seely was named as Rooyakker’s alternate on the committee.