An Inside Look At America's Hemp Farms

An Inside Look At America's Hemp Farms

Just a few short years ago, American farmers weren't willing to take the risk when it came to growing hemp. With the passage of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill), however, everything changed -- and farmers across the USA are now embracing the hemp boom with open arms. In fact, it’s not a stretch to suggest that the hemp industry might serve as a vital lifeline for struggling American farmers. Learn more about the U.S. hemp boom, and what it’s like to work on one of America’s many emerging hemp farms.


The U.S. Hemp Industry Is Exploding

For centuries, farmers have known that hemp is a fast-growing and high-yield crop. Until the last century or so, hemp was one of the primary textile crops around the world, and it was used for everything from rope to sailcloth. America’s founders grew hemp as a textile crop, and the plant’s biological effect on humans was generally considered to be an afterthought.

In recent years, American farmers have rediscovered the immense usefulness and profitability of farming hemp. Starting in the early 20th century, marijuana prohibition decimated the U.S. hemp cultivation industry, but the 2014 Farm Bill marked the beginning of the new hemp renaissance in America. This legislation made it legal for farmers to grow hemp in conjunction with strictly-controlled government pilot programs, and these initial programs were deemed to be incredibly successful.

This success fostered public support for wider cultivation of hemp in America, and the 2018 Farm Bill paved the way for a historic hemp boom by removing CBD from the DEA’s definition of marijuana. CBD-rich hemp is no longer treated as an illegal drug in the eyes of the law, and it is legally (and scientifically) separate from marijuana -- which means that even farmers in states with strict marijuana laws can now grow hemp with limited regulation.

It’s now up the USDA to lay down the framework for the future of hemp farming in America. The 2018 Farm Bill extended the hemp farming provisions laid down by the 2014 Farm Bill for another year, and a recent announcement by the USDA clarifies that this agency is working hard to put permanent hemp cultivation rules in place before the 2020 growing season.

Since hemp is now legally a normal farming commodity instead of an illegal drug, the 2018 Farm Bill made hemp farmers eligible for crop insurance, which is a necessity in the agricultural industry. Hemp farmers can now cultivate this high-yield, multi-use plant without worrying about losing everything if their crops fail.

As a result, more and more farmers of traditional crops like kale, corn, and lettuce are turning toward hemp. Not only is this plant proving to be more profitable than traditional crops, but it’s easy to grow; and the U.S. demand for hemp is still a ways off from reaching its apex. Every metric indicates that now is a great time to get into hemp as an American farmer, despite the major economic concerns currently facing American agricultural industries.


Where Is Hemp Being Farmed?

Farmers are starting to grow hemp all across the country. The first government-sponsored hemp program emerged in Kentucky in the wake of the 2014 Farm Bill, but at this point, hemp farming has spread to every corner of the nation. From Washington state to Florida, American farmers everywhere are getting on the CBD bandwagon, and it’s clear that growing hemp will only become more popular as time goes on.

While Illinois has its own laws restricting the cultivation of hemp within state lines, at least one farmer has taken the steps necessary to get this state’s hemp cultivation industry off the ground. Sixth-generation Illinois farmer Andy Huston has gotten the ball rolling by cultivating 100 hemp plants inside in soil substrate.

Throughout the summer months, Andy will continue taking his hemp operation outdoors, and he fully expects to start selling his own CBD oil in the near future. Even in states with traditionally anti-hemp legal climates, recent legislative changes are pushing the hemp cultivation industry to new heights.

You might be surprised to learn which state is poised to be its new biggest hemp producer. While it’s no surprise that Colorado, which operates the nation’s oldest recreational marijuana program, led the hemp cultivation industry until 2017, it was actually Montana that pulled ahead in 2018 as the USA’s biggest hemp producer!

This unlikely winner isn’t the only shocker hidden among 2018’s hemp statistics: the number of licensed hemp cultivation acres also jumped from around 25,000 in 2017 to over 80,000 in 2018. Bear in mind that this increase took place before the 2018 Farm Bill was signed into law; now that hemp legislation has opened up at the federal level, who knows how much hemp cultivation will take off in 2019 and beyond?


Why American Farmers Are Growing Hemp

The demand for CBD products among American consumers shows no signs of slowing down. The domestic market for CBD won’t cap for quite some time, and the fact that most hemp-derived CBD remains within the country means that we can offer unique benefits and security to American farmers.

For years, America has been engaged in a lopsided trade relationship with China that has often enriched our neighbor across the Pacific while damaging the American economy. The United States has taken drastic measures against this economic threat by imposing heavy tariffs on Chinese goods, but China has retaliated by withdrawing substantially from the American agricultural market.

While it’s possible that these policies might help rebalance trade between the U.S. and China in the long run, American farmers are experiencing serious short-term hurt as these retaliatory tariffs come into effect. However, China doesn’t import CBD, which makes the hemp cultivation industry immune to this political turmoil. Score another point for American hemp farmers!

Traditional crops may be experiencing a slump, but CBD and other hemp-derived products are in ever-greater demand. A recent study suggests that the American CBD industry could reach $20 billion by 2024, and many analysts are now considering this to be a conservative estimate. For American farmers hurt by the current administration’s trade policies, hemp is serving as a much-needed lifeline.

Far from being finicky, hemp is one of the easiest plants in the world to grow, which was the inspiration for one of marijuana’s most well-known monikers: “weed.” Whether it contains high levels of THC or not, Cannabis sativa grows like crazy in practically any conditions, which is another major reason that American farmers are flocking to hemp in 2019.

While growing crops in a monoculture always contributes to soil erosion, eco-conscious farmers love that hemp is relatively environmentally friendly. Hemp is naturally resistant to pests, and it thrives when it’s grown in tight conditions while most plant crops do better when they’re spaced out. Therefore, you can grow more hemp in a given area than say, kale, and you also don’t need to use harmful pesticides to keep your crop healthy.


The Future of U.S. Hemp

In an era of instability and overall agricultural downturn, the CBD “Green Rush” is doing American farmers a solid favor. If CBD wasn’t so popular among consumers, hemp wouldn't be so in-demand, and U.S. farmers would be denied this lifeline during trying times. Just as CBD is becoming a hot subject of research in the medical and scientific communities, the consumer popularity of CBD is also offering profound relief in an American agricultural industry facing serious economic insecurity.

Once the FDA rules on CBD (which it assures us will be any day now), it’s possible that the hemp industry will start to normalize. One of the major reasons hemp is in such high demand right now is that thousands of CBD startups are trying to ride the “Green Wave” before major regulatory changes hit. No matter what might happen to the CBD industry, however, it’s clear that the public perception of hemp has changed; in one form or another, CBD will remain a vibrant sector of the U.S. economy. It’s important to remember that hemp has dozens of (or perhaps over 25,000) other uses aside from being a source of CBD.

As the American hemp industry continues to evolve, we only hope that American consumers will begin to embrace hemp fiber, hemp seed oil, and other non-CBD hemp products just as much as they’re embracing the rise of cannabidiol. Hemp has so much to offer to farmers and consumers alike -- and it’s all thanks to CBD that American farmers have once again embraced the benefits of growing this hardy, multi-use, and highly profitable crop.


Where to Get the Best Hemp-Derived CBD

When it comes to consumer goods, increased popularity automatically brings increased diversity in its wake. While a lot of the CBD products on the market these days don’t pass CBD.co's strict standards, increasingly permissive hemp legislation has also given rise to some of the best CBD producers the CBD market has ever seen.

We’ve collected all the best CBD brands and CBD products here at CBD.co, and as the U.S. hemp cultivation industry continues to gain steam, expect to encounter even more competition and diversity within the domestic hemp market. Competition always leads to the emergence of better products, which makes the increased popularity of CBD a win-win for American consumers and farmers alike.

The more popular CBD becomes, the more that farmers will profit during tumultuous times, and the more excellent options will become available to American consumers shopping for CBD. Count on CBD.co to bring you the latest CBD news as it breaks and serve as your one-stop-shop for all your CBD edible, CBD tincture, CBD topical, and other CBD product needs!

13th Aug 2019 Samuel Popejoy

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