On this special weekend edition of the Lancaster Farming Industrial Hemp Podcast, we talk to Nick Walters from the National Hemp Growers Coop.
Walters talks about the unique structure of the coop and how it differs from other agricultural cooperatives, and why those differences matter.
The focus of the coop is fiber and grain and promises to help growers from seed to sale.
National Hemp Growers Cooperative
Phone: (601) 301-5550
Thanks to our sponsor IND HEMP
Read an briskly edited transcript of this episode:
What is the National Hemp Growers Coop? Episode 160
Eric Hurlock: Hello and welcome to a special weekend edition of the Lancaster Farming Industrial Hemp podcast. Normally I publish these interviews on Wednesdays, but I have so many interviews right now with with all these fascinating hemp people that I just want to get them to you as soon as I can. So today, like I said, is a special weekend edition. Today is Saturday, October 2nd, and this is an interview with Nick Walters. He is from the National Hemp Growers Co-op. He’s based in Mississippi. I met him out in Montana over the summer at the Hemp Summit at IND HEMP, who, by the way, is a sponsor of our show. So thanks to IND HEMP, I also saw Nick down at the Southern Hemp Expo in North Carolina a few weeks ago, and I gave him one of our national hemp tour hats. And he’s he’s very, very excited to have this happen. So anyway, let’s just get into this interview, and then we’ll let you get back to your weekend. Hope you’re having a good time there. The weather here in Pennsylvania is absolutely beautiful. It’s my favorite time of the year, October. Anyway, here we go. Nick Walters from the National Hemp Growers Co-op, welcome to the Lancaster Farming Industrial Hemp podcast. How are you doing today?
Nick Walters: I am well today and I am wearing my help to her cap right now, given to me by none other than you and I’m glad to wear it around town.
Eric Hurlock: Good. Do you get any reaction from people when they see your fantastic hat?
Nick Walters: I do, yeah.
Eric Hurlock: What are people saying?
Nick Walters: First off, they said, That’s a cool hat. I never had that happen before. Just the hat itself apparently is cool enough. And then, oh yeah. Him, tell me. Tell me about that. That’s, you know, it’s a good it’s a good opener for me to talk about industrial hemp and what that is and what we’re not. And you know, we’re headquartered here in Mississippi, and our Supreme Court is going back and forth and not down an initiative from medical marijuana. So it gives a great way for us to start having some dialog about him. OK, thank you for that. Yeah, sure.
Eric Hurlock: So I met you out in Fort Benton, Montana, back in July. I didn’t know that there was a National Hemp Growers Co-op. So why don’t you start off telling me about the Co-op?
Nick Walters: Yeah. Well, it’s a totally different business model than what most would think of as their local cooperative and a typical cooperative model. Is there some type of value added processing that is being done to a product, right? Or some some type of of agricultural grown product is typical? And so if it’s a dairy or if it’s orange juice production or ocean spray, cranberry juice, or whatever the idea is, is that the growers, the producers within a certain geographic area pool their money in one shape, form or fashion and then put in the value added production facility within that facility produces the ice cream that you would sell to your local supermarkets. Our cooperative model is different. It’s governed differently, but because it is a national cooperative, our dividend payments are all geared around different business units that we would be involved in throughout the country. So no matter where you live, even if we are not purchasing help from you, you still have an opportunity to participate in the dividends from from around the nation. So it’s a different it’s a it’s a republic instead of a democracy. We think our founders may have had some of that right. I have seen from part of my previous lives of how cooperatives can go upside down because it gets to be a little bit too much democracy. Maybe a handful of people are disgruntled and they want to change things in a different way, and things can go just upside down real quick. So we have built their benchmarks and different spots along the way that that enable every grower to have a voice. But it’s actually governed by a group of board of directors that are elected at a national meeting. So it’s a little different, right? Right. And we can begin as much as you want. I mean, but that’s just kind of the overview. And so we are every day about the business of trying to find more and more value added opportunities for us to do commercialization production, particularly as it relates to industrial hemp.
Eric Hurlock: All right. So, yeah, walk me through it a little bit. Let’s say I’m a, you know, I’m a grain producer in in Ohio. Or, you know, I’m a fiber producer in Kansas. What’s the benefit of of joining the Co-op? How does it work? How would I interact with the group? How would I make money?
Nick Walters: So you would you would make money if you if the facility was in your neck of the woods, let’s say 75 miles or 100 miles away from where you are and you were. It really starts with a contract and with the contract that we have vetted and done due diligence on the know that it’s going to it’s going to clear the bank right. There are plenty of folks that get involved in the health industry early on that had contracts, but they weren’t worth the paper they were printed on. So our job is to bring those resources have vetted that contract. And let’s just say that it’s a fiber production facility and they’re going to make, you know, some let’s just say textiles and the textile manufacturers says, I need x tons of help. I need it to look exactly like this. I need it to be processed exactly like this, that and the other. And I need it delivered to my door every month, and this amounts, and therefore I will pay you. You know, z dollars per ton for it to show up that way. We then go back and back in from that to say, Oh, well, then we, the Co-op, need to put together that that facility because we have a contract to fail and we we would not bank everything on that one contract, but there would be multiple helpful contracts that would be able to use that fiber in a way that it would be processed for that customer and then that would become a business unit of the Co-op. So let’s just pretend we call it textile processing facility number twenty three LLC. That would be that LLC. And from that LLC, then the Co-op and the National Co-op would own 25 to 30 percent of that LLC. Of the revenue that would come from that, the rest of the revenue or there are the rest of the stock, if you will, or or the rest of the ownership of that LLC. We offer that back to our co-op members. Ask them, Hey, would you like to invest more than that? Or maybe we go out and borrow the money for the rest of it? The Co-op owns 100 percent of it. Or maybe we take other investors that would like to be a part of what we’re doing with that ought to be a part of the hemp industry. So what we’re not doing is going back to the farmer every time we need more money or every time we need more capital expenditure put in. So the grower then gets a couple of bucks at the Apple. If that facility is somewhere near them. So she’s first off going to get a contract to grow that before she ever puts a seed in the ground. She already knows it’s got a home. If we have done our job right, then her inputs are lower because we have aggregated from a like a typical co-op and aggregated in bulk purchased like, you know, Sam’s or Costco, where we’re purchasing four seater for tractors…