The hemp plant is one of the oldest cultivated crops utilised by humans, having been used for paper, textiles and food for more than 10,000 years.
The Columbia History of the World reveals that the
oldest relic of human history is a scrap of fabric made of hemp dating back to
Back in the 18th century, The Declaration of Independence
on hemp paper, as was the well-known Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Even
some ancient Bible papers still remain made of hemp to this day.
The global industrial hemp market is predicted
to experience huge progress, with a projected annual growth rate of 18.3% from
2018 to 2027. The report predicts that within the hemp sector, CBD will
experience the highest annual growth rate, boasting a 18.6% rise, dominating
all other segments within the hemp market.
There has been a meteoric 368% rise in the number of acres
taken up by hemp farming over the past year, beating the likes of maple, flax,
hazelnuts and oranges with ease. Last recorded
in August 2018, there were 27,424 acres of hemp being grown across the US, with
that number now rising to 128,320 acres of land.
From a solely profitability perspective, hemp farms can net
the farmer around 30,000 dollars per acre. Comparatively, the recently trendy
soybean can only net 500 dollars per acre.
This is a stark contrast to times in the late 80s when the
US government destroyed its last remaining stockpile of hemp seeds as to conform
with new federal prohibition. Within the US, hemp was a viable and legal crop
spanning through the 18th and 19th centuries, only gaining a banned status
after the controversial war on drugs and the Controlled Substances Act
in 1970 which banned the production of industrial hemp.
Coming full circle in 2019, the United States is now the third largest
global hemp producer, closing in behind China and Canada.
Satisfying the environmentally friendly minded, hemp is
much more sustainable
than most traditional crops as it requires less water to grow and, in most
cases, no pesticides are needed as the plant naturally repels pests. Hemp also
breathes in CO2 as it grows whilst also detoxifying the soil by transforming
contaminating metals and preventing further soil erosion.
Around 14% of American adults are currently taking CBD,
equating to an enormous 49 million people.
Usage has risen in correspondence to last year’s change in federal law – the long
awaited US Farm Bill,
which removed hemp from the official narcotics list, making the controversial
crop legal to grow and produce.
With the supply chain growing exponentially in accordance
to demand, the rise in interest in hemp is fuelled by the increasing awareness
of potential health benefits as well as the optimistic view on future laws
changing in favour for industrial hemp growth, alongside the increasing demand
for hemp and cannabidiol-based products.
While mostly used for industrial products, hemp is also useful in creating
an array of commercial items such as paper, textiles, clothing, paint, insulation,
biofuel, food, animal feed and biodegradable plastics. CBD is also extracted
from hemp, which is defined by law as cannabis sativa with 0.3 percent or less
A congressional research paper
states that impressively, the global hemp market consists of more than 25,000
products within nine main submarkets; agriculture, textiles, recycling,
automotive, furniture, food/beverages, paper, construction materials and
The multitude of uses make hemp one of the most versatile
crops available. However, up until recently its main use in the agricultural
realm was for animal and bird feed, as a 2013 study
showed that of the estimated 6,000 tonnes of hemp seeds per annum produced in
Europe, 95% were used for such purposes.
The first and only hemp seed bank
in the US has officially begun construction in upstate New York. The Industrial
Hemp Germplasm Repository at Cornell University’s AgriTech facility will be
undertaking the “characterising, maintaining and distributing seeds, while also
helping to identify genes for pest and disease resistance”.
The federally-funded project was kickstarted by Senate
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who led a legislative charge to finalise the
program and eventually secured 500,000 dollars in federal cash to begin
construction of the seed bank.
a physical commodities OTC market structure solutions provider, announced the
launch of the industry’s first industrial hemp exchange. The new company aims
to improve efficiency and pricing transparency for producers, processors and
end-users by starting a legitimate online market place for hemp contracts.
“It’s the fastest growing market I’ve ever seen,” said
Julie Lerner, the founder of PanXchange, ahead of a CBD and hemp expo in Miami
where she moderated a panel of hemp growers.
“Despite the massive market demand for industrial
hemp, the ability for producers to transact with processors and end-users in a
transparent, efficient manner is woefully inadequate.”
game for farmers?
The profits in hemp are clearly unrivalled, but there is
still the ever-looming chance that the FDA could suddenly slap strict
regulatory guidelines on CBD, which could destroy millions of dollars worth of
potential profits and the livelihoods of farmers.
While the FDA is still in the midst of researching whether
the uses and effectiveness of CBD products are as they claim, the circumstances
of the unknown has not put off farmers who see the opportunity to farm hemp
whilst waiting for a solid answer.
While the new farming bill shows optimism for the future of
hemp farming, it is not the final yes confirmation some were hoping for.
Although hemp is now officially regarded as an agricultural product, strict regulations
still hang over the plant as any crop found with more than 0.3% THC would be
considered marijuana which is still federally illegal.
Additionally, the federal government and individual states are required to share regulatory power over all hemp production, with states having to submit their programs for monitoring the hemp production to the USDA for approval. States that decide not to create their own individual plans will have to abide by the federally run program.