The increase in anti-smoking campaigns, higher taxes and the reduction of government support have reduced the profitability of tobacco farming from the billion dollar cash crop it was thirty years ago. Farmers in the tobacco business are beginning to look for alternative crops that will provide value and profit.
Some farmers have already turned their tobacco soil into a haven for industrial hemp crops.
One such farmer, Brian Furnish, was the first in Kentucky to replace his tobacco plants with industrial hemp. Although the process was initially time consuming due to the scrutiny of the Drug Enforcement Agency:
“The DEA seized one of our shipments and we had to go to court in Louisville to get the seed released and to lay out the framework of what we would have to do to get our licensing permits. Last year was a really slow process. This season it wasn’t so bad. They only delayed us about a maybe ten days.”
Luckily there are a number of government decision makers in favor of making the process of growing and harvesting industrial hemp much easier.
From a news report airing on the PBS News Hour we learn that:
“…when the 2014 Farm Bill arrived in the Senate, it included a House of Representatives amendment granting colleges and universities the right to grow and study industrial hemp. In the Senate version of the bill, Senator McConnell inserted a key measure extending the rights to state agriculture departments, clearing the way for states to license individual farmers to grow hemp.
After it passed, McConnell issued a statement applauding what this might mean for Kentucky, saying: “This is an important victory for Kentucky’s farmers, and I was pleased to be able to secure this language on behalf of our state…we are laying the groundwork for a new commodity market for Kentucky farmers.”
Since the 2014 bill, it has been updated and is being supported by a variety of bi-partisan leaders. According to the press release: Senators Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Roll Back Hemp Restrictions
Kentucky is among twenty states that have already defined industrial hemp as distinct from marijuana and removed barriers to production. However, under current federal law, farmers in states that allow industrial hemp research and pilot programs must still seek a waiver from the Drug Enforcement Administration or risk raids and seizures by federal agents.
“My vision for the farmers and manufacturers of Kentucky is to see us start growing hemp, creating jobs and leading the nation in this industry again,” Rand Paul said. “Allowing farmers throughout our nation to cultivate industrial hemp and benefit from its many uses will boost our economy and bring much-needed jobs to the agriculture industry.”
Kentucky isn’t the only state where farmers are making the move from tobacco to hemp. With the new law changes in North Carolina and Hemp, Inc.’s new decortication plant, farmers are also making the switch. An article in the News Observer tells the story:
Lee Edwards of Sugar Hill Farms in Kinston is among the farmers eager to add industrial hemp to their fields.
“Hemp really gives us a crop during the summertime that is a viable cash crop to us,” he said. “We’re in a perfect geographical location for the production of hemp with our climate.”
Spring Hope, North Carolina is where Hemp, Inc. has built one of the country’s only decortication plants, a facility that processes hemp to sell to textile manufacturers and other users.
Growing industrial hemp is still a new concept for most farmers across the country however, with increased awareness and more government support; it will soon become one of the most profitable crops in our country.
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