It smells like a pot, it looks like pot. This is hemp- the legal cousin of marijuana. And, it is about to become the sensation of all time. In several states across the United States especially North Carolina and Kentucky, many farmers are planting less tobacco. The reason, they say, is due to health concerns about tobacco. To date, there has been an increase in the sowing of the plant and hemp farms are seeing great success.
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Why Switch from Tobacco to Hemp?
Because of the low concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the main cause of the normal "high" in marijuana- hemp is not psychoactive. Hemp can be used to manufacture over 25,000 products. Industrial hemp products range across personal care products, plastics, building materials, linens, food, and rope. All of these products start their lifecycle on the hemp farm before traveling to the manufacturing facilities and stores.
States Switching From Tobacco to Hemp
In addition to being less health adverse than tobacco, the profits of hemp farms are promising. These reasons have caught the attention of ambitious farmers who continuously embrace new business opportunities.
North Carolina Hemp Farms
North Carolina is a very good hemp farm case study because the tobacco industry is deeply rooted in the history of the state’s agricultural sector. For several years, the state has been a leader in tobacco production year over year. North Carolina was on top of the list of the major producers of tobacco. However, now that people are quitting smoking, the tobacco farm business has taken a downward turn.
Like many other states, farmers in North Carolina saw a decline in the value of the tobacco industry. In 2016, the cash receipts of the state showed that tobacco’s value was only 6.3% of farm income. Year after year, there was the ‘law of diminishing returns’ for tobacco. Hemp is very important because it is an ideal crop to replace tobacco for these farmers who are beginning to struggle.
Kentucky Hemp Farms
For several decades, hemp had strict controls because of the rising anti-drug sentiment. Without government permit, growing the plant was illegal because many people confused the plant for marijuana.
Fortunately, the creation of the industrial hemp research pilot programs by the agriculture departments in 2014 supported the reopening of production opportunities. In Kentucky, the cultivation of only 33 acres of hemp plant occurred. In 2015, the hemp crops were up to 922 acres. One year later, the agriculture department reported that 2,350 acres of hemp were cultivated!
However, these are still small amounts compared to the 72,900 acres of tobacco planted by Kentucky farmers. Hay is actually the number one crop in Kentucky, accounting for 2.37 million acres in the state. Kentucky still ranks as one of the best producers of hemp by producing 25% of the 9,650 hemp acres grown.
Final Thoughts on Hemp Farms
In North Carolina, hemp farming is very interesting. Tobacco is a crop the state has been tied to, even right before the Civil War, but it is losing value. What is next on the table? The new hemp industry could be worth the risk. Even though it is hard to let go of the past, North Carolina is doing great in the hemp production department.
One of the greatest investments so far is change. By using the old greenhouses and drying barns formerly used for tobacco, farmers in states like Kentucky and North Carolina have little need to invest in new equipment to start hemp farming. Farmers are finding it exceptionally easy to transition to hemp production. Prospects suggest that hemp production will supersede that of tobacco in a short period of time.