Food for Thought: Hemp
AT PRESS TIME, only nine states – Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio, South Dakota, and Texas – ban the cultivation of hemp, a resilient row crop that thrives in unamended soil and requires minimal trellising. Thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, federal restrictions on the possession, sale, and transport of products made from hemp have been eliminated. This is credited with spurring interest in this potentially lucrative market segment. The hearty, high-yield crop resists mold, mildew, mites, and disease. The long-fibered plant can be used in everything from paper and oils to clothing and cosmetics.
“The laws are always changing and are open to interpretation, but the 2018 Farm Bill went a long way to clarifying gray areas in the 2014 Farm Bill,” says Sheri Wytcherley, an Oregon-based broker with Fay Ranches whose specialties include hemp properties.
Hemp growers typically face fewer regulations than operators who cultivate marijuana. According to Wytcherley, irrigated land in Oregon costs roughly $10,000 per acre regardless of the crop. Hemp typically requires a more modest financial investment, but the harvested plant sells for much less, too. According to Wytcherley, the going rate for marijuana has dropped from a peak of $2,000 per pound of trimmed flower to $500 to $700 a pound. The same amount of industrial hemp fetches around $100.
“With hemp, I don’t see people who have expectations of becoming millionaires like there was a few years ago in the marijuana industry,” says Wytcherley, who has brokered tracts for both crops to out-of-state investors. Whereas many states limit the acreage allowed on a license for growing marijuana, hemp typically has no such restrictions. “A lot of people who are licensed to grow marijuana are now moving to hemp licenses,” she says. In addition, Oregon has placed a moratorium on its marijuana-licensing program.
“Compared to marijuana, hemp is also cleaner to grow, using fewer plastics and less water,” she says.