Largest Industrial Hemp Processing Facility in the U.S. Coming to Lubbock Co.

Largest Industrial Hemp Processing Facility in the U.S. Coming to Lubbock Co.

Dallas-based Panda Biotech [on Tuesday] announced it is developing its first industrial hemp processing facility to produce high-quality, textile-grade fiber and premium cellulose. The “Panda High Plains Hemp Gin,” to be located in Lubbock County, Texas, is expected to be the largest hemp decortication center in the United States and one of the largest in the world. 

Panda Biotech plans on deploying the most technologically advanced, highest capacity and first-of-its-kind industrial hemp decorticating equipment ever used to separate the fiber and cellulose from the stalk. The Panda Biotech Hemp GinsTM will be based on smaller versions of proven decortication technology that have been used throughout Asia and Europe for decades.

To ensure the highest quality fiber, the company will only process hemp stalks that are harvested prior to the maturation of the seed and flower, which are the parts of the plant used in CBD products. 

Panda Biotech has also secured the rights to purchase a 255,000 square foot processing facility in Shallowater, Texas in the heart of cotton country. More than 130,000 tons of Texas-grown industrial hemp is expected to be processed annually into textile fiber and cellulose.

In the lead up to today’s announcement, Panda Biotech has engaged key stakeholders in the Texas High Plains region including the local farming community, academic institutions and elected officials. Panda Biotech is also establishing business relationships with large potential off-takers for the fiber and cellulose to be produced at its Texas facility. In addition, the company is assembling a “first in class” advisory board composed of some of the top industrial hemp, textile and cellulose experts in the nation as well as agronomists experienced in the seeding, cultivation and harvesting of industrial hemp.

“After more than a year of due diligence — which has included an analysis of the hemp fiber and cellulose industries in the People’s Republic of China, various European countries and Canada — we have concluded that the processing of hemp stalk for industrial uses will be the next multi-billion-dollar business in the United States,” said Scott Evans, executive vice president of Panda Biotech. “Hemp fiber and cellulose will help manufacturers meet the needs of today’s eco-conscious consumers who increasingly require environmentally friendly products and services. As a result, hemp will be a game changer for both agriculture and industry for generations to come.” 

Formation and growth of the industrial hemp industry

The U.S. hemp industry was made possible due to the passage of the federal Hemp Farming Act of 2018. Panda Biotech was subsequently formed after the provisions of the Act were incorporated in the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill that was signed into law by President Trump on Dec. 20, 2018. Both chambers of the Texas state legislature unanimously passed House Bill 1325, that was signed into law on June 10, 2019, by Texas Governor Greg Abbott. The law authorizes the production and manufacture of industrial hemp crops in the State of Texas pending final approval of Texas’ hemp regulations by the USDA which is expected in the coming weeks. The law ensures Texas farmers are able to participate in a rapidly growing industry with a new viable crop option that should also be a boon to rural economies.

The global industrial hemp market is projected to grow from $4.6 billion in 2019 to $32 billion by 2022.

Benefits of industrial hemp fiber and cellulose

Industrial hemp used for manufacturing applications is highly valued for its natural durability, rapid growth and environmental sustainability. The processed fiber and cellulose from industrial hemp can be used in the production of a multitude of products including textiles, a wide array of building materials, paper products, automobile composites, nanomaterials, bio-plastics and finishing products such as caulking, sealants, varnishes and paints. In addition, research indicates that hemp-based supercapacitors offer a less expensive alternative to materials currently used in rechargeable batteries for applications such as smartphones and electric cars. As a result, industrial hemp is poised to transform numerous multi-billion-dollar industries.

Why Hemp’s Diversity Means Many Market Opportunities

Why Hemp’s Diversity Means Many Market Opportunities

Hemp is a type of cannabis that contains less THC and more CBD. THC is the psychoactive component responsible for providing the effect of a “high.” It can be dangerous when consumed in large amounts. However, CBD is useful in treating various medical conditions.

In December last year, the Trump administration legalized hemp, which contains less than 0.3% THC, by clearing the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, also known as the farm bill. Apart from medicinal values, hemp has a variety of industrial usages, such as clothing, food and beverages, paper, and construction. Let’s look at hemp’s uses in the health and wellness sector.

Hemp’s uses in health and wellness

Although the US federal government has legalized hemp, the FDA hasn’t approved any CBD products except Epidiolex, which treats seizure disorders in patients over two years old. However, many hemp-derived CBD products are used in treating ailments such as anxiety, pain, dystonia, and Parkinson’s disease.

In July 2019, Brightfield Group said it expected the sales of CBD products to reach $5 billion in 2019, year-over-year growth of 706%. The market research company also expects the industry to reach $23.7 billion by 2023. Its report stated that tinctures have the largest share in the CBD market, followed by topicals, vape oils, and capsules. It added that companies are working on developing innovative CBD products, such as facial scrubs, sunscreen, and sparkling water. CBD’s vast market potential appears to have attracted many cannabis players.

Last week, Canopy Growth (WEED) (CGC) introduced its CBD products in 31 US states under the First & Free brand. In October, the company acquired a 72% stake in BioSteel Sports Nutrition, which produces and markets sports nutrition products. The company expects to introduce CBD sports nutrition offerings in US markets by early next year.

In August this year, Aurora Cannabis (ACBcompleted the acquisition of Hempco Food and Fiber. The acquisition could expand Aurora’s hemp-derived CBD business. The company also partnered with mixed martial arts organization UFC to conduct clinical research on the effectiveness of CBD in treating pain, inflammation, and other medical conditions.

However, recently, the FDA announced that it could not conclude CBD products were safe using the available data. It warned consumers that CBD products could cause injury to the liver, drowsiness, and diarrhea. Now, let’s look at the industrial usage of hemp.

Many industrial usages

  • As reported by Hemp Basics, hemp is useful in making ropes, sacks, carpets, nets, and webbing due to its strength and durability. Its durability also helps in making jeans, shoes, and sports clothing.
  • As reported by TreeHugger, hemp seeds contain protein, calcium, and iron. TreeHugger expects the plant to act as an ingredient in food and dietary health supplements.
  • Due to its sturdiness, hemp can come handy in making building materials such as fiberboard and pressboard.
  • The TreeHugger article reported that currently, hemp-derived paper forms only a small percentage of hemp’s use. The article added that hemp has the potential to provide a renewable and sustainable source of pulp for paper but that a lack of innovation has increased its production costs.
  • Hemp oil can be processed to produce biodiesel.

Apart from health and wellness benefits, hemp has a variety of industrial usages. With a wide range of usages, we expect the hemp sector to have a considerable scope going forward. For more cannabis-related news and updates, check out 420 Investor Daily.

This story first appeared at Market Realist.

Hemp Paper May Cost More But its Environmental Benefits Are Worth it

Hemp Paper May Cost More But its Environmental Benefits Are Worth it

Hemp paper is stronger and more environmentally sound than wood paper.

This story is originally from RXLeaf.com

Hemp is a truly remarkable plant. It’s essentially the gift that keeps on giving. In addition to CBD oil, food, clothing or fuel, it can also make hemp paper. This paper type is likely the ideal replacement to wood pulp paper in our quest for a greener, cleaner world.

What is Hemp Paper?

The hemp plant is rich in cellulose. When boiled, beaten, or shredded into tiny fibers it can then be spread onto sheets that are pressed and dried to make a pulp.

When compared to wood pulp, hemp pulp offers several advantages. Fibers are generally four to five times longer than those found in wood pulp. This is something that leads to higher tear resistance and tensile strength in the resulting paper.

Hemp paper is commonly used in applications where there’s a need for high-strength paper as in the case of banknotes, stamp papers, and postal stamps. While many view it as a viable alternative to wood pulp, production costs are higher, something that currently prevents its widespread adoption.

The Benefits of Hemp Paper

The benefits of hemp paper extend far and wide as seen below. They include the quality of the paper itself to the associated efficiencies in cultivation as well as the wide-reaching environmental benefits.

  • Hemp offers superior quality paper: Hemp paper fibers do not decompose or deteriorate by turning yellow or brown like wood pulp paper does.
  • Quick growing: Hemp stalks grow in four months, while trees take between twenty to eighty years.
  • Increased yields: One acre of hemp on average will produce as much paper as four to ten acres of trees.
  • Environmentally friendly: Recycling hemp paper up to eight times is normal, while pulpwood paper can only tolerate three times.
  • Less harmful chemicals: Bleaching must occur with woodpulp paper via a process that uses many toxic chemicals. Hemp pulp requires no bleaching.
  • Reduced deforestation: Disturbed and angered by the images of the Amazon rainforest burning this year? Well, the wider adoption of hemp paper substantially reduces the alarming rates of deforestation.
  • Abundant cellulose: Cellulose is the principal component of paper. Trees contain thirty percent cellulose, while hemp plants contain up to eighty-five percent cellulose.

Can Hemp Reduce the Global Carbon Footprint

Hemp has some notable advantages when it comes to carbon footprint. This is something of great relevance in these challenging times for the global climate.

An Australian parliamentary report recently studied the role of industrial hemp in carbon farming. It concluded that hemp can absorb “more CO2 per hectare than any forest or commercial crop and is therefore the ideal carbon sink.”

The abilities of hemp to sequester carbon is nothing short of remarkable. Hemp begins to sequester carbon as soon as it is seeded. And one hectare of industrial hemp can absorb twenty-two tonnes of CO2. This translates to 1.62 tonnes of sequestered CO2 per ton of harvested hemp.

The fact that fast-growing hemp can grow to heights of thirteen meters in less than four months means that it’s often seen as the ideal solution when compared to other agroforestry alternatives.

In addition, hemp grows even in nutrient-poor soil. It requires minimal amounts of water and no artificial fertilizers are necessary.

Pulp Paper is a Big Source of Pollution

As the raw material for pulp paper, trees have always been widely available and affordable. With such affordability comes high consumption and high waste levels. But how does the production of pulp paper contribute to the global carbon footprint?

Science disputes just how much of a polluter the paper industry is. Studies exist that put forward strong arguments for both sides. One Chinese case study, published in Applied Energy (2015), claimed that within China, CO2 emissions from the paper industry, “ranged from 126.0 Mt to 155.4 Mt”. The report touted it as being the “largest source of carbon emissions.”

report published in the Environmental Engineering and Management Journal (2012), provided a thorough breakdown of the environmental impact of pulp and paper mills. Researchers attributed the environmental impact from the wood pulping industry to come from the bleaching process. The resulting pollutants that are subsequently introduced to the environment are chiefly made up of harmful sulfur compounds and nitrogen oxides that pollute the air.

Wastewater is also a concern, and discharged bleaching effluence consists of chlorinated organic compounds. These human-made chemicals, known as xenobiotics, persist in the environment for considerable periods. Pulp mills are also voracious consumers of water. With the discharging of waste waters often taking place at a rate of twenty to one hundred cubic meters per ton of product.

The Counter Evidence for Hemp Paper

Evidence put forward from the U.S. Environmental Protection agency paints a rather different picture, however. The research claims that, “greenhouse gas emissions from the pulp and paper industry has dropped from 44.2 to 37.7 million metric tons CO2”. The fifteen percent betterment is due to improved energy efficiency and the, “increased use of less carbon-intensive fossil fuels.”

Furthermore, a report published by the National Emissions Inventory (2014) claims that “the pulp and paper industry in North America produced only about 0.5 percent of the total carbon emissions in 2014.”

Paper Production and Deforestation

While the short term effects of the industry will inevitably cause a debate, few can argue with the increased rates of deforestation.

The destruction of forests around the globe essentially results in the destruction of, not only local habitat, but . Birds and animals thrive in the forest and are much more vulnerable to predators with the continuous cutting down of trees.

An article that appeared in National Geographic (2019) cited the fact that much of the wood that fuels the paper industry comes from illegal logging operations in the Amazon. In the past fifty years, seventeen percent of the Amazonian rainforest has been destroyed. While not all of this can be attributed to paper production, it certainly does make the case for sustainably sourced hemp as a viable alternative.

The Future of Hemp Paper

With the recent spread of legalized cannabis across much of North America, the aversion by association that many have toward hemp is slowly beginning to wane. With the recent passing of the Farm Bill, hemp has once again become a viable crop. And along with paper production, it’s wide and varied uses may just be the catalyst for some positive global changes.

This story first appeared at RX Leaf.

The World’s First Marijuana Mall Opened in Colorado

The World’s First Marijuana Mall Opened in Colorado

History is being made in Trinidad, Colorado, as the world’s first marijuana mall is scheduled to open this upcoming April.

Developers Chris Elkins and Sean Sheridan deemed Trinidad as the perfect location to build their dream project given Trinidad’s views on law and tourism.

In an interview with local news station KRDO, Elkins said, “This town has a zero-foot setback, which allows us to put five dispensaries here right next to one another. As far as we know, we are the only town in Colorado that can do this.”

Elkins and Sheridan have received city permits and have already purchased a building in downtown Trinidad on Commercial Street. Their next step is waiting for City Council to give their approval.

According to Elkins, four of the five spaces have already been leased to marijuana-based businesses, and if the City Council gives their approval, they are hoping to open their doors to the public in April.

Along with their passion for marijuana, Elkins and Sheridan are also incorporating their entrepreneurial skills into this project, and they are excited about the benefits the mini-mall will bring to the town.

Elkins expects the mini-mall to boost the local economy, and it seems as though many local residents agree.

Mechelle Duran, a Trinidad local who lives nearby the mini-mall location, said, “I’m excited to see it open. We have a lot of pot stores already and there is a lot of benefits.”

 There are other locals who have expressed their concern with the mini-mall attracting homeless people and transients.

Tamara Johnson, a Trinidad local, said, “To be honest, I don’t have any problems with marijuana or marijuana users but I do know we have had a lot more problems with theft. I know Walmart is having problems. And transients, that’s becoming a huge problem.”

Regardless of the differing opinions of Trinidad locals, Elkins and Sheridan remain optimistic and anxiously await the grand opening of the world’s first marijuana mini-mall.

This story first appeared at CannaSOS

With Israel as Partner, Africa can Turn Cannabis Into an Economic Game Changer

With Israel as Partner, Africa can Turn Cannabis Into an Economic Game Changer

It’s a fast-growing business with vast domestic potential across the continent, and our advanced know-how can help make it happen.

Africa is asserting itself as a high-potential emerging region for large-scale cannabis grow operations. With South Africa leading the continent’s entry into the market along with the Kingdom of Lesotho and Zimbabwe, savvy investors are jockeying for position. But the future health of the African cannabis industry faces several challenges: maintaining consistent, sustainable product quality, overcoming regulatory uncertainty and promoting social justice are long-term considerations that should inform current decisions.

The African Legal Cannabis Landscape

South Africa began licensing the production and export of medical cannabis in 2018 and is expected to become a global frontrunner in the industry. The South African Supreme Court’s decriminalization of cannabis for personal recreational use in September further propelled the country’s entry into the market.

According to a recent UN survey, more than 10,000 tons of cannabis are produced in Africa each year. With abundant land, an experienced labour force and climates conducive to cannabis cultivation, if legitimized, cannabis could contribute to a continent-wide economic uptick.

While Africa is eyeing global cannabis export, local markets are also of interest. The continent’s unregulated market is estimated to be upwards of $10 billion. According to Prohibition Partners, five of the world’s top 30 countries for cannabis prevalence among adult populations are in Africa. Nigeria alone has 20 million cannabis consumers. This translates to the potential for legal cannabis to generate an economic surge for African nations that have been historically disadvantaged and exploited.

The potential for cannabis to usher prosperity has induced many African countries to weigh regulatory changes. The Kingdom of Lesotho, a sovereign nation of 2 million bordered on all sides by South Africa, granted the continent’s first license to grow and export legal medical cannabis in 2017. Currently, several countries including Eswatini, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Uganda, are examining legalizing cannabis cultivation for medical or industrial applications.

What can Israel offer Africa’s cannabis industry?

Africa’s potential for export has attracted some of the world’s largest cannabis companies, including Canadian giants Tilray and Canopy Growth Corp. While expansion into substantial local markets and global export holds promise, in order to keep the cannabis value chain local, ensure sustainable growth and improve efficacy, infrastructure and tech will play an important role.

This is where Israeli expertise can offer an advantage. As the “Startup Nation,” Israel’s biggest commodity is its intellectual property (IP). The concentration of talent and tech makes Israel’s cannabis-specific offerings a perfect match for Africa’s big-grow potential.

Israel is a global leader in advanced cannabis production solutions, including unique extraction techniques, targeted formulations, plant quality monitoring technology and novel delivery platforms. This can offer greater cost-efficiency and standardization to ensure the health of Africa’s expanding cannabis industry. Anticipating a cannabis boom in the near future, Israeli aggrotech companies are already planting roots in Africa.

This partnership is mutually beneficial: Israeli companies have an opportunity to expand their global footprint and African growers benefit from the leading-edge cannabis tech and research that are Israel’s cottage industry. Another reason why integrating the African supply chain is particularly important is to ensure that local businesses and workers are not cut out of end-product profit. Israel can help promote social equity by contributing to post-production cannabis infrastructure and technology.

African Cannabis, Global Impact

Beyond mutual financial benefit, the partnership between African cannabis farms and Israeli tech stands to help people around the world. By expanding the African market and ensuring supply chain sustainability, patients with a wide range of conditions will enjoy increased access to high-quality, cost-effective cannabis-based medicine. This growth, however, should foster and protect the interests of local stakeholders including farmworkers, local patients and small cannabis businesses.

Novel cannabis-derived therapies are impacting global health, with numerous researchers and policy-makers sanctioning cannabinoid drugs to treat epilepsy, AIDS and chemotherapy-related symptoms, and muscular disorders. The benefits of a thriving African cannabis industry extend beyond economic growth. A healthy African market could become a main source of bulk medicinal cannabis and cannabis-derived products, and Israeli cannabis know-how can help achieve this while promoting sustainability and social equity.

Saul Kaye is the Founder and CEO of iCAN: Israel-Cannabis and CannaTech, a global cannabis industry conference founded with the mission of expanding the global cannabis ecosystem and contributing to the ongoing post-prohibition dialogue. CannaTech will be holding an African conference in Cape Town, South Africa, November 24-26 where the most pressing issues facing the industry will be discussed with regional and international cannabis business and thought leaders.

Farmers Struggle as Hemp Harvest Winds Down

Farmers Struggle as Hemp Harvest Winds Down

Ajit Singh strode across his 16-acre hemp field toward a broken-down harvester. He’d been hoping all day that the mechanic now crouched beside the machine could get it back up and running. 

It was late October and Singh still had thousands of stinky green and purple cannabis plants across 425 acres to pick, dry and sell before winter. Like many hemp growers here in Jackson County, Oregon, he was harvesting slowly, facing a mold problem and unhappy with prices offered by potential buyers. 

“We want a better price,” said Singh, a soil scientist and former garden store owner — and, he said, he was prepared to hold out for one. He sold 50 acres of hemp for $70 a pound last year and now was being quoted prices less than half that. 

Hemp growers nationwide scaled up this year after Congress legalized the non-psychoactive cannabis. They hoped to cash in on the booming market for cannabinoids such as wellness darling CBD, an ingredient in oils, tinctures and salves. But as harvest winds down, it’s likely that many growers will go bust.

More than half a million acres were licensed for hemp production this year, though Vote Hemp, a hemp advocacy nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., estimated in September that less than half that was planted. 

“People went in thinking they’d be instant millionaires. But the reality is, they’re broke.”

Matt Ochoa,  founder JEFFERSON PACKING HOUSE

Some of the more than 16,000 licensed growers will profit from their crops and say hemp is a better investment than traditional commodities such as corn. However, because of crop failure and other factors, Vote Hemp estimates that between 40% and half of the crop planted this year won’t be harvested.

“People went in thinking they’d be instant millionaires,” said Matt Ochoa, founder of Jefferson Packing House, a cannabis drying, processing and distribution business in Medford, Oregon. “But the reality is, they’re broke.”

In late October the mood was so grim in Jackson County, home to about a quarter of Oregon’s 1,957 licensed hemp growers, that rumors were swirling of husband-wife growing teams divorcing, farmers selling in a panic to low bidders and despairing entrepreneurs dying by suicide (the Jackson County Sheriff’s office told Stateline that it investigates all suicides in the county and is not aware of any involving hemp growers).

“I’ve literally had a tightness in my chest from all these failures the past few days,” said Mark Taylor, founder of the Southern Oregon Hemp Co-operative, when he met with Stateline at a Medford restaurant last month. He still thinks the hemp industry has a bright future but worries that a lot of the crop planted in Oregon this year isn’t going to make it. “I believe we’ve lost a substantial amount of hemp,” he said.

Nationwide, bad weather, mold, disease, pests and inexperience have crushed some crops. Now lack of capital, harvesting equipment and drying space — challenges affecting rookie and veteran farmers alike as growing expands — means that some healthy plants may not make it out of the ground. 

“People can’t get it out [of the fields] because there’s not the infrastructure, the capital or the labor to get it through,” Ochoa said. 

Wholesale hemp prices, while higher than for other agricultural commodities, are expected to decline for key cannabinoid products this year as new suppliers flood the market, according to Washington D.C.-based cannabis industry research firm New Frontier Data. And even farmers who thought they had buyers lined up are finding there are no guarantees. 

Singh is optimistic that he’ll find a buyer for the crop he spent millions of dollars planting, even though much of it is blighted by mold. Moldy hemp, while less valuable than the unblemished stuff, can still be processed into CBD oil.

Other parts of the country have faced different diseases and pests. Bipolaris leaf spot, which limits the photosynthetic area of the plant, was widespread in Tennessee, said Katy Kilbourne, a plant pathologist with the state’s agriculture department. 

Zach Hansen, an assistant professor in the entomology and plant pathology department at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, has seen about 10% crop loss in worst case scenarios to another fungal disease, Southern blight. “It’s basically a death sentence for the plant,” Hansen said. 

Corn earworm, a common pest to sweet corn in the South, has transitioned to hemp nicely, according to experts, prompting growers to hire people to walk up and down hemp rows and hand-pick the pests off individually. 

‘The Money Is in the Plants’

In Southern Oregon and other regions where hemp production exploded this year, people up and down the hemp supply chain are feeling the pressure. 

Ochoa is a tall man with a gentle smile who radiated calm as he walked through his 100,000-square-foot hemp-drying warehouse, fielding nonstop phone calls, video calls, emails and urgent questions from his staff. 

His Zen demeanor is misleading, however. “I’ve never been this stressed in my life,” he said as he headed from the curing room, a cool space where dried hemp lay in plastic-lined packing crates, to the cavernous hall where freshly harvested plants lay drying on racks. 

Not only was Ochoa trying to manage a rapidly growing business, but like his hemp grower clients, he was squeezed for cash. “The system is out of money,” he had explained earlier, in his bare-bones office. “The entire industry segment is all in. All the money is in the plants right now.”

Ochoa said buyers are out there, but it’s hard to know who’s serious. In other parts of the country, even farmers who entered into contracts well ahead of the growing season also are having problems.

When Stateline met Michael Calebs earlier this year, he proudly wore a clean gray cap emblazoned with the green, upside-down V logo of the company that processes his hemp, Atalo Holdings. With a contract, Calebs wasn’t worried about investing $200,000 in hemp seed, clones, fertilizer, land, diesel, insurance and labor across 33 acres in London, Kentucky. 

In September, Atalo CEO William Hilliard sent its growers a letter alerting them that an investor had pulled out, and it could not offer a “specific or dependable date” for when growers could expect to get paid. 

“Matter of fact, they recommend if we can find a place to sell our crop to sell it,” said Calebs, who’s also thwarted two attempts by thieves to steal his hemp. “That’s scary, isn’t it? That could bankrupt us.”

Hilliard told Stateline that Atalo continues to seek funding and intends to pay in full about 80 growers, including Calebs, who collectively this season planted about 1,700 acres in Kentucky and neighboring states. Hilliard attributed Atalo’s challenges to specific investors and outside forces, such as news of overproduction that has investors wary of getting involved, lackluster financial results among cannabis companies and uncertainty in the vaping industry. 

“Our enthusiasm for the hemp industry has not dampened at all,” Hilliard said.

Meanwhile, GenCanna — another heavyweight in growing and processing industrial hemp crops — is being sued by a group of hemp farmers in Kentucky over a deal that fell through to create a drying facility and pay an increased price for processed hemp. 

The farmers want $5 million, but GenCanna disputes their claims, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader. In addition, there are at least 37 liens against a property the company leases in Mayfield, Kentucky. Records show the company owes just shy of $52 million, according to Tammy Flint, Graves County clerk.

Neighboring Tennessee licensed roughly 4,700 acres of hemp last year. This year, it’s an astounding 51,000 acres, according to the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. 

The number of licensed growers increased nearly 1,600% this year, from 226 to 3,800, “and that has had some catastrophic effects,” said Bill Corbin, a third-generation tobacco farmer in Springfield, Tennessee. Corbin fears he’s made a “massive mistake” by forgoing tobacco this year to grow hemp exclusively. 

Corbin suggests Tennessee institute a narrow window for growers to obtain licenses and restrict growers’ hemp acreage and pounds based on averages from previous years of documented production. “That should be the case with hemp, so we don’t travel this path again.”

Meanwhile, hemp prices are all over the place. Pete Gendron, president of the cannabis advocacy group Oregon SunGrowers Guild, says he’s seeing a range of prices nationally — from about $12 a pound for hemp with low cannabinoid concentrations to $1,000 a pound for top-quality flower that can be rolled into joints and smoked. Last year’s price range, he said, was also huge.

Many hemp growers in southern Oregon, even experienced ones, aren’t going to be able to sell for premium prices this year, thanks to early rains that spread mold across hemp fields.

Stormmy Paul, a longtime cannabis entrepreneur who runs a hemp drying business in the area, said mold can turn a $250 a pound crop into a $25 a pound crop. Because hemp is so expensive to plant and harvest, he said, once prices drop below $20 a pound, farmers start losing money. 

It generally costs between $8,000 and $20,000 an acre to grow hemp, not including harvest costs, Ochoa said. Many rookie growers underestimate the expense. “People think they can grow it for $4,000 to $8,000 an acre, and then they get in,” he said, “and all they can do is keep borrowing money all the way to the finish line.” 

Pushing Forward 

By late October, between 75% and 90% of the viable hemp crop in Oregon should have been out of the ground and in drying barns, Gendron said. But in the Rogue Valley, a cannabis-growing mecca near the California border, hemp fields were still bursting with plants toward the end of the month. Many fields, such as Singh’s 16-acre plot, were partially harvested. “Not everything that’s sitting in the field right now is going to be harvested,” Gendron said.

Singh is pushing on, despite mold, harvest challenges and the accidental fertilization of the Phoenix field by male hemp plants from a neighboring farm — which filled Singh’s once-pristine hemp flowers with seeds. 

He initially planned to pay field workers to hand-shuck the hemp flowers, but that proved prohibitively expensive. Mukesh Sheoran, Singh’s business partner and cousin, said that an initial crew of 100 workers for the Phoenix field put the company back $20,000 a day. 

Determined to cut down on labor costs, the hemp growers, both in their mid-40s, bought a green-bean harvester from a farmer in Idaho and modified it to suck up hemp leaves and flowers. Even with the machine, the harvest has proceeded slowly, because the cousins can only harvest as much hemp as they have space on the farm to dry. 

The harvester’s breakdown, thankfully, was short. After conferring with the mechanic, who welded adjustments to the machine in the middle of the field, Singh climbed gingerly into the cab and worked the harvester slowly round until he could drive it along a line of hemp plants. 

Sheoran watched silently as the harvester inched its way down the line, spitting hemp debris into a tank at the back of the machine. “We had very high hopes. See the amount of flowers we had?” he said, looking out at the top-heavy plants. “It’s all seedy.”

Even longtime farmers are facing challenges. Steve Fry, a 68-year-old organic vegetable farmer in the Rogue Valley, grew about 20 acres of hemp last year and twice as much this year. “We did so well last year that we thought we’d do more. That’s how dumb farmers are, you know,” he said, sitting on the tailgate of a truck parked beside his red barn on a glorious October afternoon. 

Fry estimated that he’d harvested about 15% of his hemp crop, which also has been afflicted by mold. He said he’s wondering whether it’ll be worth harvesting the most damaged plants, given the prices they’re likely to command. “I’ve got to talk to my processor guys,” he said. 

Next year, Fry said, he’ll be better prepared, with more drying space ready to go early in the season as well as modified harvesting machinery.

And this harvest, while disappointing, won’t be crushing. Conventional crop prices are so low, he said, that even if he harvests only some hemp he’ll be better off than if he had planted vegetables. “We’re still going to do better than we would have if the whole place was in veg,” Fry said. 

Fry said he hasn’t made a profit on vegetables in three years. Last year’s hemp, not carrots and squash, is paying the bills on a new food processing building on his family farm. “Thank God hemp came,” Fry said.

This story first appeared at Pew Trusts.