Massive changes in food consumption habits have scrambled most corners of agriculture, but the burgeoning hemp industry—and hemp farmers—are far less affected.
Hemp has boomed since Congress approved the plant for nationwide production in the 2018 farm bill. Production jumped from 90,000 acres in 2018 to an estimated 146,000 acres last year, according to USDA.
While it remains a small crop within the industry, it is gaining attention because of its apparent immunity to the coronavirus.
In fact, trade groups say the strict social distancing measures are actually driving sales as people shuttered in their homes buy more cannabidiol products (CBD is derived from hemp) for their purported calming effects.
Jonathan Miller, general counsel for the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, said many hemp businesses “are doing better with online sales than they were prior to the pandemic.”
The relative good times are not universal for hemp growers. And for those who are struggling, accessing federal stimulus programs could be a headache.
For one thing, farmers are only eligible for direct aid from USDA if they demonstrate that their prices have declined by 5 percent since January. That’s tricky for hemp producers because of their harvest schedule, the lack of a major hemp futures market and a shortage of data on the relatively nascent industry.