The USDA recently released a 77 page report detailing their take on the viability of hemp in the United States. Called, “Economic Viability of Hemp in the United States: A Review of State Pilot Programs,” the report imparted the view of the USDA on the future of the crop.
Their results were not the most optimistic, referring to hemp as a ‘specialty crop.’ They stated in the report that they believe that it is hard to imagine that the demand for hemp will ever come close to matching the demand for the corn and soybean crops used to feed humans and animals. This, even as they praise the state pilot programs as a general success.
“While the numbers of planted acres and participants in the US industrial hemp industry increased rapidly under the pilot programs, and hemp can now be grown legally in nearly every state, the long-term trends for US industrial hemp are uncertain,” the report states. “The recent rapid growth of the alternative plant protein food sector does show some possibility for a ‘specialty’ crop to suddenly become a growing market sector.”
Their doubts spring from the common challenges they found in moving production into an entire industry. Some of the challenges that the industry will need to address include:
- Having access to reliable and transparent data from markets and peer-reviewed research
- Competition for land from other crops
- Foreign competitors with well-established markets
- Using risk management to decrease uncertainties in production and pricing
“The next few years should see a resolution of the legal and regulatory issues constraining hemp production in the United States, leaving domestic production, imports, consumer demand, and exports to dictate growth and long-term market size,” the report said.