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Amid Trade War, Farmers Lean on a New Crop: Hemp

Andy Huston has added hemp to the crops he grows on his farm in western Illinois.

Some farmers are growing...

Some farmers are growing hemp for grain and fiber, which many consider a better long-term investment. But the vast majority of Illinois’s hemp will be used for CBD, which can be sold for more but requires more involved processing. That comes with its own challenges: In Illinois, hemp must be destroyed if it “tests hot,” meaning it contains more than 0.3 percent THC. As scientific officials study the safety and effectiveness[1] of CBD products, industry experts expressed uncertainty about its future popularity.

“Anyone should be skeptical of a single crop that is marketed as the future saving grace of the American agricultural sector,” said John Hudak, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the author of “Marijuana: A Short History[2].”

Once farmers make it to harvest, there can be more complications: Processing can require outside machinery and expertise to dry, trim and grind the raw hemp.

Mr. Huston has his own processor, but he is one of the lucky ones. Experts described the race to find a processor as “the Wild West” and “utter chaos.” Some questioned the profits a farmer actually stands to make.

Mr. Huston has predicted that he could sell his hemp, which he is growing for CBD, for as much as $65,000 an acr e. But closer to harvest he said, “It’s all still tentative.” Exp erts, academics and industry officials predict a range of far lower returns — from $14,000 to $40,000 an acre to as low as $6,000 an acre.

“We’re in a bit of a green rush here,” said Kevin Pilarski, the chief commercial officer of Revolution Enterprises[3], a cannabis company. “There’s overenthusiasm and I don’t think it’s sustainable.”

References

  1. ^ study the safety and effectiveness (www.fda.gov)
  2. ^ Marijuana: A Short History (www.brookings.edu)
  3. ^ Revolution Enterprises (www.revolutionenterprises.org)

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