With the tumultuous state of farming in general, farmers have turned to a certain infamous plant for aid.
Up until President Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill into legislature, hemp was considered a Schedule I drug despite only containing only .3% THC – the psychoactive compound derived from the cannabis plant. But its economical, agricultural, and environmental value are continuing to prove their worth and remove the stigma of being associated with cannabis. Now, farmers can’t get enough of it.
Eric Steenstra is the president of a hemp farming advocacy organization called “Vote Hemp”. Steenstra helped to get the law changed.
“It was considered to be the same as marijuana even though it’s a different variety of the plant that you can’t get high from,” said Steenstra.
“But in 2018, Congress included a provision that we advocated for in the Farm Bill that removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act and then allowed states and the USDA to now regulate it as an agricultural crop,” he added.
With U.S. hemp sales reaching $1.1 billion last year, some people are referring to hemp farming as an agrarian gold rush.
Steenstra says up to 25,000 different products can be made using hemp: “You can make everything from building materials to clothing, foods, body care, and even tinctures and oils that can be used as a health supplement.”
These highly sought-after products and their potential for large profits are why so many farmers are hopping on the hemp bandwagon.
Reuters correspondent Julie Ingwersen says, “We’ve spoken to some processors that have said hemp can bring in $750 an acre. I’ve seen estimates from Pennsylvania where it could bring $300 an acre. Those numbers are a lot higher than say $30 or $50 you can get from growing wheat or grains.”
Ingwersen noted that the profit potential for low-income farmers with large surpluses and low prices is off the charts. Industrial hemp can provide an avenue for those who are trying to keep their family farms afloat.
First-time hemp farmer Rick Gash is joining in on the craze with his farmland in Augusta, KS.
“Now we’re growing hemp. This used to be a horse pasture for the past nine years,” said Gash. “The thing about hemp is that it grows in pretty much any soil except for clay.”
But that doesn’t mean growing the lucrative plant doesn’t come without its challenges. Hemp seeds are costly, the specialized equipment is expensive, and the crop’s flowers typically have to be harvested by hand.
As we wait to see how further regulations pan out, only time will tell about the success and longevity of hemp farming.