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Breaking: From Red States to Blue [The Green Rush is On]

Get some great news concerning the monstrous hemp-driven green rush in full swing from Washington and Oregon to Kentucky and Tennessee, as America enters a critical 2020-2022 phase.

(Photo credit: Anna Carson Dewitt Photography, courtesy of Third Wave Farms)

Key Takeaways

  • The hemp industry is attracting younger farmers, breathing youthful vigor into an aging and quickly evolving sector.

  • Federal hemp farming regulations are set to be released before the 2020 planting season, but more delays could still occur.

  • The hemp CBD market has pushed all states but four into the green rush, yet infrastructure is lagging which could lead to huge amounts of waste.

Introduction - From Grim to Grinning

On the crisp morning of January 1st 1920, U.S. census records show exactly 6,448,343 farms sprawled across the land. This was up 1.4% from 1910 driven by production boons of WW1.


Farmers aged 55 to 64 accounted for just 15% of the total number, while those aged under 25 to 44 accounted for nearly 60%.


However, as they often do, The Great War came to an end and the so-called agricultural depression began. The 1920s weren’t ‘roaring’ for most American farmers. Hard times ran into worse with foreclosure and bankruptcy-ridden Great Depression and Dust Bowl eras lasting until at least the end of WW2.


Fast forward a century to the fall of 2019 and the number of farms has declined to around 2 million - employing a mere 1.3% of the workforce, down 70% from the mid 1800s.


The average farmer you meet is likely to be in their late 50s to 60s now.


An alarming trend.


Hemp is set to disrupt, derail and reverse it.


Hemp is helping address a primary cause for concern where older farmers heavily outnumber the ranks of younger farmers needed to replace them, when demands for carbon sequestration, soil health, and regenerative techniques are in such high demand due to climate change.


For generations it seemed nothing could stem the steady decline of American farming.


From traumatic trade wars and corporate centralization to extreme weather losses and an aging farmer pool, food producers have been through hell over the last century!


Thankfully glimmers of hope are flashing across tickers as industrial hemp attracts fresh blood to American fields with promises of a greener tomorrow. A newly released 2017 Census from the USDA shows there were over 321,000 young farmers (under the age of 35) which is up from 208,000 in 2012.


This important socioeconomic development couldn’t have happened at a better time.

The #1 driving force of the green rush is of course money, with hemp showing immense potential as thee crowned royal of cash crops to satisfy a wide array of consumer, construction, and business needs (vs. recreational cannabis which is currently focused almost exclusively on THC-related products).


Industry revenue estimates have reached six-figure billion territory by the mid-2020s for hemp-derived cannabinoid extracts + seed & fiber products with CBD production alone accounting for $22-$23 billion.


However, challenges abound for the hemp supply.


According to Mike Lewis, founder of Third Wave Farms in an interview with Civil Eats concerning hemp becoming the ultimate gateway crop,

“A lot of the newer farmers lack generational knowledge and experience, and unlike conventional crops, there is not an extensive amount of research and information available to newer farmers. There is a lot of trial and error still going on. We see just as much failure as we do success.”

Youthful vigor comes in handy because hempin’ ain’t easy!


High land prices, limited land access, lack of specific experience and conventional finance models are stumbling blocks, but when you dig into the hemp community it’s pure passion pushing these young visionaries forward.


Some good news is that government agencies are about to release official recommendations to really set the industry free and support them.


Federal Hemp Regulations Expected Soon

In mid-September 2019, Hemp Industry Daily (HID) reported that the USDA had completed its draft of federal hemp production rules and submitted the draft to the White House Office of Budget and Management.


Then there was a lull... crickets until the USDA began suggesting towards a November release, echoed in HID’s recent updates:

“As long as those state hemp plans are being evaluated by the USDA early next year, I still believe that there would be sufficient time to uphold the stated goal of the USDA, which is to have all these plans in place in time for planting season come next April, May and June of 2020.”

America is truly on the cusp of a 21st century agricultural revolution and more and more people are catching on. Some stipulations the industry eagerly awaits include:

  • Certified seed/genetics acquisition

  • Confirmation on interstate transport

  • Clarification on universally consistent THC testing across the country

  • Any rules regarding pollen drift issues between grain/fiber farms and CBD farms

  • Decisions on smokable flower production, considering some state bans

  • Which pesticides will be labeled for hemp production

Once these are addressed and the industry is unleashed, 2020 and 2021 will set the baseline. Then it will be a matter of dealing with a lack of needed infrastructure - another source of robust innovation to come.


Infrastructure Badly Needed

Simply put, America is set to produce an astounding amount of industrial hemp over the coming handful of years, but the infrastructure needed to effectively process all the seed, fiber and biomass is lagging behind.


CBD is the first up to bat. Insiders are already warning the numbers won't look good, with far too much production and not enough infrastructure to deal with demand along with the amount of foreign isolate CBD flooding the market (no hemp tariffs are in place yet).


Some other examples might include:

  • Sure, we can completely revolutionize the American textile industry and displace cotton, but we need the fiber processing and hemp clothing manufacturers.

  • We can revolutionize herbal medicine through hemp-based cannabinoids, but we need a consistent and regulated domestic supply chain.

  • We can overhaul the energy sector through biofuel and multi-purpose crops, but we need the processing wherewithal to transfer this plant energy into society.

A tremendous difference between the agricultural realities of America in 1920-1940 and 2020-2040, is cannabis prohibition has come to an end and industrial hemp farming is here to stay.


If you’re looking for a way to pitch in, support a hemp farmer, purchase domestic hemp goods, get involved on the local, state and federal levels with hemp initiatives and continue paying attention to ongoing developments as they change the world for the better.



References

  1. 1920 U.S. Census: Volume 6. Agriculture, Reports for States, Summary for the U.S. and the North, South, and West.

  2. “9 mind-blowing facts about the US farming Industry” May, 2019, Markets Insider, Sara Lepley.

  3. “For Young Farmers, Hemp is a Gateway Crop.“ October, 2019, Nadra Nittle, Civil Eats.

  4. “Industry to USDA: Where are the federal hemp regulations?” October, 2019, Laura Drotleff, Hemp Industry Daily.


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