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Trade War Leads to Increase in Hemp Farming

Fresh agricultural hemp grows in the countryside
By Andrew Leonatti on October 15, 2019 8:08 AM

Story after story this year has highlighted the tough year that farmers are having. A much wetter than normal spring and summer in the Midwest has hampered crop growth. Worse, though, is the country's ongoing trade war with China, which has closed off one of America's biggest export markets for soybeans.

But a change in federal law late last year has given some struggling farmers a new lifeline: hemp. Once caught up in our country's seemingly never-ending reefer madness, it is now legal to grow hemp across the U.S.

A Growing Industry

According to Vote Hemp, an industry advocacy group, there are 13 new states where hemp is growing for the first time in 2019, on top of the 21 states where it was growing in 2018.

Across the country, there are 16,877 growers licenses for 511,442 acres. According to one market research firm, 87 percent of hemp harvested this year will be used for CBD products, which are exploding in popularity. One first-time hemp farmer in Illinois told The New York Times that the hemp growth could stabilize his finances after a bad year for his corn and soybeans. Another told the Chicago Tribune that he was hopeful he could make $100,000 an acre on his hemp crop.

The Risks

Just like with any crop, there are numerous risks. Many first-time hemp farmers may find out that their soil just doesn't take to the plant.

Additionally, there are no approved pesticides for hemp growth. That means deer and bugs may pick a crop apart. Crops also have to be tended to by hand, which means labor costs are high.

The biggest risk, however, could still be legal. The type of hemp plants grown for CBD products can produce too much THC, the chemical that gets you high when smoking pot. When that happens, the law demands that farmers destroy the plants.

And as we've already seen, law enforcement has a hard time telling the difference between hemp and marijuana. No amount of paperwork may be enough for the police officer who thinks you are transporting pot.

That means the right legal representation is essential as you contemplate your options. Your lawyer should be up to date on every development in the industry, both nationally and in your state, to ensure compliance.

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