Jun 14, 2021
New HIA Leadership Boosts Focus On Seed, Grain, Fiber

The Hemp Industries Association (HIA) has made several changes to its Board of Directors that will strengthen the organization’s capacity to advocate on behalf of the whole plant and facilitate its strategic focus on helping farmers to make the most of the opportunities represented by hemp.

HIA Farming member Mike Lewis, who is a sustainable agriculture specialist at National Center for Appropriate Technology, was elected by his fellow directors to the position of president, which serves as the chief executive officer of the HIA and chair of the Board. In this critical role, Mike hopes to help the HIA educate the broader agricultural community about the benefits of hemp in crop diversification.

“The things that excite me about hemp today are the same things that excited me in 2013, and are some of the same reasons that early thought leaders came together to form the HIA back in 1994,” said Lewis. “The rebuilding of rural infrastructure and a transition to equitable production and processes will play a critical role in the global fight against climate change and food insecurity. The path to sustainability will be built from the ground up and hemp represents an opportunity for us to diversify crop rotations, reduce pesticide and water usage, and create cleaner industrial and consumer-facing products — all while creating the jobs our rural communities need.”

Zev Paiss will chair the HIA’s Fiber Council.

The Board also voted to appoint business members Zev Paiss and Jeff Kostuik to seats reserved for directors with a focus on hemp fiber and hemp grain and seed, respectively. Paiss, hemp industry expert at Rhizo Verified, a bulk hemp product verification company, will chair the HIA’s Fiber Council, which brings together members interested in working to address the challenges and seize the opportunities specific to hemp fiber.

“I see tremendous potential in numerous hemp fiber products becoming widely available through the standardization and scaling of the fiber and hurd (inner stalk) parts of the hemp stalk,” said Paiss, who has been actively involved in the hemp industry for almost 10 years. “Hemp fiber, with uses including textiles and building insulation, represents one of the leading market segments of the hemp industry globally, an indication of how large this emerging sector can become in the U.S.”

Kostuik, Hemp Genetics International’s director of operations Central Canada, U.S. & International, will chair the HIA’s Grain and Seed Council, a group of HIA members focused on advancing that side of the hemp industry.

Jeff Kostuik
Jeff Kostuik will chair the HIA’s Grain and Seed Council.

“I am both honored and excited to be a part of the HIA, and in particular accepting the position of Chair of the Grain and Seed Council,” said Kostuik. “I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and working hard alongside my fellow members to support the HIA’s mission, educating the market about hemp seed for planting, and promoting hemp grain for food, feed, and all industrial uses.”

Additionally, former Board President Rick Trojan (Industrial Hemp Farms) was voted into the role of vice president, where he will continue the vital work of organizing the HIA’s Cannabinoids Council and building alliances through the conclusion of his term in December of 2022.

Other changes include a six-month extension of the vacancy appointment of Todd Runestad (senior editor, Ingredients & Supplements at New Hope Network & Natural Products INSIDER), as well as the conclusion of vacancy appointments for Tim Gordon of Impello Biosciences and Julie Lerner of PanXchange.

“This is an exciting time for the industry and for the association,” said HIA’s Executive Director Jody McGinness. “The HIA is fortunate to be guided by volunteer leaders who are willing to contribute their time, expertise, and energies to the project of realizing the full potential of hemp as an agricultural commodity.”

The Hemp Industry Association’s Board of Directors, a volunteer body comprised of members in accordance with the HIA’s nonprofit bylaws, has been a home for leaders of the U.S. hemp community for nearly 30 years. The next election, scheduled for December of 2021, is expected to include up to four seats to be filled by HIA Business and Farming members. Members with two years of consecutive membership at the time of the election are eligible to vote, nominate, and to be nominated as candidates.

Photos courtesy of Hemp Industry Association.

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