For many farmers across the country, the 2018 Farm Bill was a godsend. For a while, they’d been looking for a new high-value cash crop that would guarantee them high returns. The legislation legalized industrial hemp after decades of prohibition, finally giving farmers access to a high return crop. The bill classified hemp as cannabis with less than 0.3% THC, and instructed states and tribes to create hemp programs and submit them to the USDA for approval.
Just a year in and the market for hemp is worth millions of dollars in sales, and future projections are exceedingly positive. Although hemp is insanely versatile and is said to have thousands of applications, most of the demand can be traced back to cannabidiol. Like THC, it is a chemical produced by the cannabis plant, but unlike THC, it isn’t psychoactive and is found in abundance in legal hemp.
The cannabidiol market has proven to be quite lucrative, and states such as California have quickly established themselves as top players in the hemp for CBD scene. Dr. John Jemison, a Professor of soil and water quality with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension spent six months last year in California observing the growing, harvesting, drying and marketing of hemp.
He realized that Maine hemp growers had a long way to go before they could match up to California, and the best way to do that would be to find more creative applications for hemp.
California grew 80,000 acres of hemp, according to the California Sun, compared to the 500 acres grown by Maine farmers. Jemison states that a single farm harvested more than 250,000 pounds of hemp biomass, more than the hemp produced by all the Maine hemp farms combined. “Everything they are growing in California is being used for CBD. Maine growers must think about the competition out there.”
According to Dr. Heather Darby, an agronomist at the University of Vermont Extension, terpenes may be the way for Maine growers to break into the industry. “They are widely different among hemp varieties, and if you’re looking at producing a smokable product or an edible product, you need to know what terpenes are present in what you are growing.”
Jemison concurs, stating that farmers have to get more creative with their crops if they wish to consistently earn a profit. “Think of a novel, value-added CBD product. Why not CBD butter? Just have fun with it.”
Industry watchers say this is the same advice that hemp companies like HTC Extraction Systems (TSX.V: HTC) (OTCQB: HTPRF) have been trying to implement on their own as a way breaking into new segments of the industry where there is still a high chance to earn decent returns.
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