REXBURG, ID — The recently established Whitefield Fiber Processing, a subsidiary of Whitefield Global Holdings LLC (WGH), has begun its journey towards becoming a key player in the industrial hemp processing industry. The industrial hemp plant in Rexburg, officially opened its doors in early July, marking a significant milestone in the state’s emerging hemp industry.
The plant primarily processes hemp into two distinct materials: fiber and hurd. Fiber finds applications in non-woven products such as car panel liners and insulation materials, while hurd can be used in injection molding plastics, construction products like hempcrete, composite lumber, and plywood.
According to John Read, CEO, and co-founder of WGH, although the facility is still fine-tuning its operations and equipment, it represents a substantial step forward for the region.
“We’re originally based in central Illinois, but we decided to explore opportunities beyond our home state,” Read said. “After evaluating various regions, we found that Idaho’s thriving hay markets and favorable economic climate made it an ideal choice for our first facility.”
The plant aims to introduce 25 to 50 job opportunities to the region in the coming year, according to Read. While this may not seem like a lot currently, he’s optimistic that it will kickstart more job opportunities throughout the state.
“It’s a good starting point, because we have to figure out how to build out an entire ecosystem to be vertically integrated just in the state of Idaho,” Read said. “Since there’s not a national supply chain, you’ve got to create it out of these small pockets, then start connecting all the small pockets together. That’s what we’re trying to do in Idaho.”
Its partnership with businesses like Hempitecture Inc. in Jerome, which utilizes processed hemp materials in construction products, ensures a seamless supply chain that benefits both parties. After the Idaho Legislature passed legislation in April 2021, making Idaho the 50th state to legalize industrial hemp, Hempitecture became one of the first to secure a handler license.
The Idaho State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) has implemented regulations that apply to those involved in various aspects of hemp, including production, processing, handling, transportation, and research within the state. Individuals looking to engage in hemp cultivation within Idaho must apply for and obtain a license issued by the ISDA. These regulations are specifically designed to uphold the exclusive industrial use of hemp in compliance with state laws.
“So far, the economic development groups and everybody we’ve met in Idaho has been extremely welcoming and great to work with,” Read added. “It seems like everybody’s hungry to have new industries and new opportunities come to the state.”