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An Argument for Farming Hemp

U.S. agriculture has seen better days, but many farmers looking to grow hemp see greener pasture.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

American farmers are in a bit of a bind. From sagging soybean prices to rising fuel prices, the troubles facing the farm industry make it increasingly difficult for the small business owner to make a living. One solution to this agricultural crisis may be for more farmers to start growing industrial hemp. Not convinced? Here are three reasons why. 

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1. Hemp is easy to grow.

With the exception of desert regions, hemp can grow in almost any climate and needs very little attention. It is also resistant to common pests and contains anti-bacterial properties. In fact, throughout history farmers have used hemp to help protect their crops from pests and disease. This is not to say that the crop equires no attention or that it can be grown anywhere; but when compared to other crops like cotton, hemp is not exactly what you would consider  “high maintenance."

Related: 5 Other Uses for Hemp You May Not Know About

2) Hemp is good for the environment.

One acre of hemp, which only takes four months to grow, can produce as much paper as four acres of trees, which takes several years to mature. It also requires far less water than other crops. On average, it takes roughly 50 percent more water to cultivate cotton than it does to grow hemp. When it comes to carbon absorption, few crops can match hemp. One hectare of hemp can absorb 22 tons of C02. That C02 will then get converted into cellulose, an essential ingredient in the creation of plastic, making hemp a good source for bioplastics as well.  

For farmers suffering from damaged soil, hemp may offer the perfect solution. Not only does it return most of the nutrients it absorbs throughout the cultivation process, but it can also remove many of the toxins present in the soil. In the early 2000s, German scientists demonstrated the hemp was able to extract lead, cadmium, and nickel from a plot of land contaminated with raw sewage.  

Related: 5 Ways Hemp Is a Boon for Health

3. Hemp is profitable

Perhaps the biggest reason why farmers should grow hemp is that it is an incredibly profitable crop. Just how profitable? In 2018, farmers lost $20 on average for every acre of soybeans that they grew. In 2019, farmers are projected to lose around $47 per acre. In contrast, the Hemp Business Journal reports that farmers can make around $250 to $300 per acre in profit if they grow hemp for grain. If they grow hemp for fiber, they can make around $480 per acre. If a farmer grows hemp specifically for CBD extraction, they can make $2500 per acre or more.

It is important to note that these figures were before the 2018 Farm Bill was passed, which legalized industrial hemp cultivation. However, given the rise in demand for hemp and hemp-related products, it is not too much of a stretch to imagine that those figures have held steady, if not increased.