For the last few years, the buzz around hemp has been building. Different states have been working with it for the last few years, experimenting and developing interest in the crop. Interest in the crop for farmers, and interest in the potential benefits for customers have been growing.
The farm bill in 2014 only allowed very specific institutions to grow hemp in limited amounts for specific reasons. The hype over the plant wasn’t very widespread. In 2018, with the signing of the farm bill, that’s changed. Hemp is now a huge opportunity. Some states are sprinting towards the goal, producing as much hemp as they can, while others are taking a more conservative approach.
Only a few holdouts exist that are refusing to adopt hemp like Idaho and South Dakota. The rest have a hemp program of some form or another, and they will be looking to merge their current policies with the federal ones as the infrastructure gets laid out.
The crop is boasted as a saving grace for American farmers. It’s a magic cash crop that will make you rich. That’s how it was marketed, but the realities are a little harsher.
Hemp is profitable in theory
If you are crunching the numbers, hemp is very appealing. Growing hemp for fiber and seeds is more conservative, but has its long term appeal. The uses for hemp fiber are well established and understood. There will always be a use for the incredibly strong bast fibers that surround the stalk of the plant.
We already know the nutritional value of hemp seeds and hemp oil. There is already a domestic demand for these foodstuffs. These varieties of hemp are a stable and safe way to diversify a farmer’s efforts, but they aren’t what has everybody seeing green. The craze is around CBD.
Growing hemp for CBD is where the gold rush is happening. Traditional crops like corn are worth around $1,000 per acre. CBD hemp is worth $40,000 to $50,000 per acre. The high prices and demand for CBD extract are fueling a mad rush to produce it. With so many farmers finding it hard to make ends meet without incorporating the economies of scale of large farms, hemp is hard to turn down.
But we don’t know how to grow it.
The state’s that are doing the best are states like Colorado and Oregon, who have been ramping up hemp production for that last few years. Those states already have an idea of what they are doing and how to do it.
For other states, their first year hasn’t turned out ideal. Hemp is a new crop being introduced after 70 years of prohibition. It is going to take a few years to relearn how to grow it. Many hopeful hemp producers don’t have experience growing crops, and the ones that do are still in the dark about the specific needs of the plant. The plants that are being grown for CBD are more finicky too. They need to be spaced out, cared for and tended to by hand.
Which cultivars of hemp will fit each region of the country the best is still a guess. Farmers don’t know what they need to do to keep their crops healthy. They don’t know what they can get away with.
This year farmers took more risks than some of them should. They planted past the window, confident that they would still have a good harvest. They also replanted and picked male plants by hand when the rain washed them away.
Despite such high hopes, there are many places in the country where hemp did not meet their expectations. In places like Indiana, farmers are just hoping to recoup their losses for the crop. Their lack of experience led to less than stellar yields. The weather wasn’t cooperating with their dreams, and they didn’t have the knowledge to know when to cut their losses.
Hope is still there, and while hemp might not be the easy money they thought it would be, it is still a promising crop for the future.