In 2018, hemp production became federally legal when the Agricultural Improvement Act was passed, removing it from the Controlled Substance Act list. Hemp is now legal to cultivate in at least 38 states in some varying degree (some is for research only).
Previously, the Farm Bill of 2014 allowed the state departments of agriculture and academics to grow and produce industrial hemp if it was cultivated for purposes of research under agricultural pilot programs or academic research.
Why Grow Hemp?
Currently, hemp is a minor crop, but it is expanding rapidly. In 2016 fewer than 10000 acres were grown where in 2017 26,000 acres were produced. That is more than double the previous year produced by around 1,500 farmers. As more states legalize the cultivation of hemp, the American hemp industry will balloon and there will be a massive demand for farmers to plant the crop.
Hemp requires less water, pesticides, fertilizer, and herbicides than other crops while having a vigorous growth rate. Besides having a reputation for being sustainable it also has over 25,000 known uses and is considered an eco-friendly alternative to other crops commonly used and produced on an industrial scale.
Hemp has many different uses that a farmer should consider before they choose to grow hemp. It can potentially be a raw material for biofuel production, paper and textiles and livestock feed. The seeds and the oil that can be extracted can be used both culinarily and industrial. However, the most lucrative industry that hemp farmers can invest in is the production of CBD oil. CBD is a medicinal compound in hemp that has no THC, making it legal to consume in all 50 states. The CBD industry is predicted to grow from $1.04 billion to $16.32 billion in the next 7 years.
Ideal Growing Conditions
Other than extreme desert conditions and high mountain areas, Hemp is an annual plant that can be grown in most parts of the country. It grows best in well-drained soils in warmer weather and benefits from soils with high levels of organic matter. They should be planted around the day of last frost and sown directly where the plant will grow. Once established, hemp plants are mostly drought tolerant, but the seedlings will require irrigation the first six weeks if the soil is dry.
The Biggest Obstacles of Growing Hemp
Although the idea of farming hemp can seem like a miracle crop for reducing agricultural pollution, reducing carbon and making a large profit on a small amount of land, the reality isn’t so straight forward. There are many things that you should consider before deciding to farm hemp.
You need land:
Hemp is best suited for industrial growth, not small market sales. Like most grains, it can be difficult to profit when hemp is grown on less than 50 acres.
Although hemp is federally legal, it is still stuck in a legal grey area. Farmers who grow hemp need to acquire special licenses from their state, this means paperwork and fees. Many states require criminal background checks to acquire these licenses. In states with open legalization, farmers have to pay to have their hemp tested, to ensure that the THC is under a certain threshold, if the THC level is too high, the plants must be destroyed.
Since the hemp market is still in its early stages it is hard to say whether it is a profitable industry. However, a recent study conducted by Cornell University found that the profits can range from $130 to $730 per acre. The future of the hemp industry looks potentially prosperous, but only time will tell for sure.