Is Hemp the New Darling of American Agriculture?

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(Image: Ten03 / Shutterstock)

Farming is at the heart of American culture and the country’s formation. Although the United States is still the largest agricultural exporter in the world, this does not equate to prosperity for American farmers. Farming, while critical to the success of our nation, is a tough business, at least for smaller operators.

There could be one crop that offers a potentially brighter future for farmershemp. The idea of opening new avenues of revenue through the introduction of new products is not new. “Thomas Jefferson once said ‘the greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add a useful plant to its culture,’” Founder and President of Friends of Hemp, Annie Rouse, told CBDToday. Friends of Hemp is a Kentucky based organization that advocates for expansion and education on legalized hemp. The organization’s efforts extend beyond Kentucky as they played a critical role in helping the Colorado Hemp Industries Association’s Hemp Feed Coalition initiative move forward. The coalition is pursuing a mission to get hemp-based animal feed products approved by the FDA. “That will be a tremendous opportunity for farmers,” Rouse explained.

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Hemp could represent a new way forward for American farmers. CBD is typically derived from hemp and the cannabinoid’s rising popularity has been well documented. The market is already lucrative and expected to become worth tens of billions in the coming years. Hopefully, this will be a rising tide for all boats, including farmers who often are an afterthought even in booming economic times.

“A lot of farmers are putting hemp into rotation or they are using it to restart their farms especially if they came from tobacco,” Rouse said. “It is a big coalition of different people.”

While CBD’s popularity and market value have been increasing steadily, progress has really accelerated since Congress passed the 2018 Farm Bill in December. “The moment it passed it was really a new day for the world, something that was a controlled substances act was born over 50 years ago, we have finally come to the conclusion that cannabis and hemp are not as dangerous as heroin,” Rouse said. “It will be great for the American farmer.”

“Was the Farm Bill perfect?” Rouse asked. “No. Not all, but it passed. There is still a lot to be done but the Farm Bill is a solid start.”

We are in the early days of legal hemp but American farmers have a long history of adjusting with changing markets or consumer demands. While many already are in a position to cultivate the plant, it could become even more lucrative in the future when the right infrastructure for hemp farming is put into place. “There is some mechanized equipment being manufactured to make hemp more scalable,” Rouse said.

Now that hemp is legal it makes sense for equipment makers and farmers themselves to invest in streamlining their operations. Rouse believes hemp may become an economic driver just like cannabis with new jobs and additional tax revenues on the horizon. “Cannabis, as a whole, is truly helping out the economy right now and I think we will see something similar with industrialized hemp.”

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