Hemp could become the new-kid-on-the-block later this year when Congress will consider a bill that will give the plant legal agricultural crop status.
If the bill is approved, hemp farming could become the much-needed injection to stimulate the country’s struggling agricultural sector.
At the moment farmers wishing to cultivate hemp face a number of restrictive conditions – conditions that the proponent of the bill, Republican Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, hopes will end restrictions and give farmers ease of access to a new and lucrative market.
Hemp may be easy to grow but getting past all the red-tape is anything but simple. Farmers must:
- Pass a background check by the Federal Bureau of Investigation
- Obtain a state permit to grow the crop (in states that have approved hemp cultivation)
- Obtain County permits (where applicable)
- Be subjected to regular inspections to ensure that hemp, and not marijuana, is being cultivated
- Cultivate female plants only (where applicable) to avoid cross-pollinating with marijuana plants
All of these restrictions will vanish if the bill is approved and make the cross-over from other crops, such as alfalfa to hemp, much easier for the farming community. Hemp farmers will also be eligible to receive agricultural benefits such as:
- Crop insurance
- Federal research grants
The rewards will be rich indeed because farmers growing hemp for CBD oil extraction can expect a $90,000 per-acre pay day as opposed to the $600 per-acre earned for alfalfa.
Add to that the fact that hemp is a drought-resistant easy to grow crop and the future becomes even more bright.
Hemp is water-wise
Hemp has been described as “one of the most drought-tolerant crops on the planet” by Geoff Whaling, chairman of the National Hemp Association. He says while hemp may need more water during the first three weeks of its growth period, once it passes the development stage it is a fantastic drought-resistant plant.
- Unlike marijuana that is generally cultivated under controlled indoor conditions, hemp can be planted as field crops like alfalfa and corn
- The beauty of hemp lies in the fact that is needs about 50% less water than corn
- It tolerates a variety of soil types and temperatures
- It does not have to be treated with pesticides
- It is extremely fast-growing reaching about 20 feet within 100 days
Whaling points out that if hemp is planted across large acreages of farmland, it could save precious water reserves, particularly attractive to farmers in the arid West.
Another income-earner that is presently lost is the fiber contained in hemp stalks that is being discarded because there is no processing equipment available in America. Whaling predicts that this scenario will change as the hemp market grows in momentum and will then provide farmers with yet another source of income. With the right processing equipment, farmers will be able to sell the fiber for use in more than 25,000 hemp products that include fabrics, construction materials, animal feeds and biodiesel products.
Hemp for CBD oil extract
But the pot at the end of the rainbow is definitely the CBD oil that is extracted from the hemp plant. And with hemp on the verge of being recognized as an agricultural crop, it is understandable that an increasing number of American crop farmers are casting their eyes on this new and lucrative industry.
CBD oil is used, and recognized, as a medication to treat a number of ailments – from sprains and tight muscles, to epilepsy and other head-related disorders or injuries. Unlike marijuana, CBD oil is not regarded as an illegal substance by the federal government because it is not psychoactive.
US hemp farming background
The 2014 Farm Bill opened the door to America’s new-age of hemp farming. Cultivation was allowed for “research” purposes and was restricted to 50 acres.
- By 2017, the total US hemp harvest was 25,713 acres
- This paled into insignificance compared to the 16.5millionacresthat was used to grow alfalfa
- By 2017, Western farmers were crossing over to hemp
- Colorado was the largest producer with 9,700 acres harvested
- Oregon was a distant second with about 3,500 acres
- Montana, Nevada, and Washington had a combined harvest of about 3,000 acres
- New Mexico is next in line to join a growing list of hemp farmers and is expected to start operations later this year
A Colorado farmer from Walsenburg, Keith Wiggins, says “it’s hard to make a living” by cultivating a few hundred acres of alfalfa. Most farmers in his region “grow it here just to feed their cows through the winter”. Now, Wiggins plans to plant six acres of hemp this year on land that he had previously leased to produce alfalfa. If all goes according to plan, Wiggins intends to increase his hemp acreage next year because “I can guarantee you that hemp will do better than alfalfa.”
Hemp originated in China and was grown commercially in America until the 1930s when the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act killed the industry. Hemp fibers were used to produce a variety of products including fabrics, rope and sails. At that time, no one knew how to distinguish the psychoactive differencesbetween the THC compounds in marijuana and the non-psychoactive CBD compounds found in hemp.
But all of that began to change in 1970 when THC was identified as the psychoactive compound found in the marijuana plant. However, by then the damage had already been done because the entire plant genus had been banned on a federal level when Congress approved the Controlled Substances Act.