Farmers in Utah are having radically different experiences with their first effort growing hemp. For 2019, about 220 licenses were issued to grow industrial hemp. Farmers flew into action, eager to get their hands on the green gold that is happening in the CBD industry.
Some of them succeeded. Like Jud Harward of Spanish Fork who managed to grow 10 acres of healthy plants. Even he described it as touch and go with little to no knowledge available, it mostly came down to trial and error.
Other farmers haven’t been so lucky this year. Farming in recent years has been a struggle, and the hopes that hemp presented were hard to turn down. Some farmers put mortgages on their homes to jump-start their hemp production.
Some set themselves up for failure by ignoring the planting window for the crop. More people, however, took all the right steps but still ended up with little to show for it. The hot summers and frost came through to destroy a crop they were told grows like a weed.
Then there was the testing. Every plant needs to get tested to make sure it falls under 0.3% THC to legally designate it as hemp. This year 16,323 plants were destroyed under the direction of the Department of Agriculture and Food because of a bad test. Even coming in at 1% of the harvest, it was enough to eat into the profits of small farmers.
This spring many seeds that were thought to be feminized turned out to have many male plants, causing days of labor to remove the male plants before they ruined the crop.
Successful farmers are now looking at an overly saturated marketplace with plummeting prices. The price for a liter of CBD oil is currently sitting at $800, down from $4,500 the year before.
There is a lot to learn with this new crop. In Utah, farmers are finding out that hemp was not the easy money they were promised it would be.