American farmers are in a bit of a bind. From sagging soybean prices to rising fuel prices, farmers in the United States are finding it increasingly more difficult to make a living. One solution to this agricultural crisis has been for more farmers to start growing industrial hemp; but would that really solve anything? Here are three reasons why farmers should start growing hemp:
1) Hemp is easier to grow
One reason why farmers should start growing hemp is that it is much easier to grow. With the exception of desert regions, hemp can grow in almost any climate and needs very little attention. It is also resistant to common pests and contains anti-bacterial properties. In fact, throughout history farmers have used hemp to help protect their crops from pests and disease. That is not to say that it requires no attention or that it can be grown anywhere; but when compared to other crops like cotton, hemp is not what you would consider a “high maintenance” crop.
2) Hemp is good for the environment
Not only is hemp easy to grow, but it’s also good for the environment as well. One acre of hemp, which only takes four months to grow, can produce as much paper as four acres of trees, which takes several years to mature. It also requires far less water than other crops. On average, it takes roughly 50% more water to cultivate cotton than it does hemp. When it comes to carbon absorption, few crops can match hemp. One hectare of hemp can absorb 22 tons of C02. That C02 will then get converted into cellulose, an essential ingredient in the creation of plastic, making hemp a perfect source for bioplastics as well.
For farmers suffering from damaged soil, hemp may offer the perfect solution. Not only does it return most of the nutrients it absorbs throughout the cultivation process, it can also remove many of the toxins present in the soil. In the early 2000s, German scientists demonstrated the hemp was able to extract lead, cadmium, and nickel from a plot of land contaminated with raw sewage.
3) Hemp is incredibly profitable
Perhaps the biggest reason why farmers should grow hemp is that it is an incredibly profitable crop. Just how profitable? In 2018, farmers on average lost $20 for every acre of soybeans that they grew. In 2019, farmers are projected to lose around $47 per acre. To contrast, the Hemp Business Journal reports that farmers can make around $250 to $300 per acre in profit if they grow hemp for grain. If they grow hemp for fiber, they can make around $480 per acre. If a farmer grows hemp specifically for CBD extraction, they can make $2500 per acre or more.
It is important to note that these figures were before the 2018 Farm Bill was passed, which legalized industrial hemp cultivation. However, given the rise in demand for hemp and hemp-related products, it is not too much of a stretch to imagine that those figures have held steady, if not increased.