Notes from the road: On behalf of Tribal Council

The Southern Ute Indian Tribe recently partnered with Panda Biotech to process hemp in a facility located in Wichita Falls, Texas. Members of Tribal Council and the Southern Ute Growth Fund toured the processing facility in person, which is slated to begin production later this year.
courtesy Marvin Pinnecoose | SU Tribal Council
courtesy Marvin Pinnecoose | SU Tribal Council
courtesy Marvin Pinnecoose | SU Tribal Council

On-site visit at a Texas hemp processing facility

Part I: Panda High Plains Hemp Gin, Wichita Falls, Texas

Oil and gas reserves are finite resources that are not renewable. In the late 50’s and 60’s, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe began business with numerous gas and oil companies in search of natural gas on the Southern Ute Reservation. As the years passed, the Tribe became very efficient. Our primary role in the fossil fuel chain is extraction from the ground, compression, and then sending it downstream to be cleaned, refined, and sold by other companies. In this sense, we as a tribe are like wholesalers.

To refine the process for end-user consumption would be very expensive in terms of capital expenditures, transportation, machine set-up, increased labor, regulations, and maintenance. These are factors for consideration and tribal leadership is carefully reviewing the pros and cons. While we realize the limits of extracting fossil fuels, the Tribe is also seeking optional investment opportunities. One opportunity we think is profitable and ready this year is hemp processing.

Foreign hemp has become very lucrative and only recently has domestic hemp been fully explored in the industrial sector. Part of the new interest is keeping processing within the boundaries of the United States given the unstable international supply and logistical issues.

Hemp is resilient, and in different climates, it can produce high yields compared to competitive inputs from other industries. Hemp uses less water than cotton, absorbs more CO2 than many plants, uses minimal to no fertilizers, and can be rotated with other crops in agricultural fields, in addition to having multiple seasonal growing cycles.

Hemp gets bad publicity because of its similarity to marijuana. The primary difference is in the THC and flower that is produced and harvested from marijuana. Hemp processing is focused on harvesting the plant (the fiber, stalk, and herd) before it ever goes to seed and industrial hemp is genetically modified so that THC is not an issue. Hemp is becoming a high value product and is important in the production of textiles, plastic, paper & pulp, construction, and protein and feed.

The Southern Ute Indian Tribe has partnered with Panda Biotech to process hemp in a facility located in Wichita Falls, Texas.  This facility was under renovation before the Tribe acquired its partnership. The facility is scheduled to begin production toward the end of 2023.

The facility is strategically located right next to Interstate I-44, with railroad access for loading and unloading, and can be accessed through the Port of Houston. The facility will run 24-7 when fully functional. Upon performing our due diligence from both the Growth Fund and Tribal Council, we requested a site visit of the facility in its initial stages of construction. The on-site visit occurred Wednesday, Feb. 8.

Panda Biotech is very proud of its name, which is rooted in their focus on environmentally friendly processing in many of its ventures. The panda bear is the most sensitive animal in the wild and has established an identity of care and consideration. Panda Biotech makes every effort to lead the way in carbon neutrality and socially responsible business practices. Many of the machines that are necessary in the processing had to be brought in from overseas. The company has invested in the finest equipment that has been proven in the hemp industry and this machinery has a reputation for great performance, low maintenance, and a long-life span.

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