Farmers Start to Get High on Hemp
After years of falling crop prices, some farmers see a lifeline in hemp.
Thanks to recent changes in federal legislation, hemp, while still minuscule as a share of U.S. agricultural production, may offer growers outsize profits compared with more traditional crops.
With its strong fibers, hemp historically was grown to make industrial rope, fabric and paper—although it was effectively made illegal in 1937 by the Marijuana Tax Act. More recently, it is being used to make building materials and food additives.
Increasingly, however, the biggest use of hemp in the U.S. is for making cannabidiol, or CBD, which some people believe conveys calming and anti-inflammatory benefits without the psychoactive effects of marijuana.
Andy Huston, a sixth-generation farmer in Warren County, Ill., says he thinks he’ll make about $75,000 an acre from his hemp, but will gross roughly $1,000 an acre for his corn and soybeans. Years of high production and trade tensions have weighed down prices for those crops, he says.