Editor's Note: Leaving the Starting Line

Departments - From the Editor

Editor Theresa Bennett discusses the future of the hemp industry as planting season begins.

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April 5, 2021

Another cultivation season is upon us. In the three years since hemp’s legalization in the U.S., growers have had time to trial and error cultivation practices and hone production processes.

But in some ways, this year still feels like the starting line for the U.S. hemp industry. Hemp-related regulations are either constantly changing or, in the case of CBD, hazy at best. In some segments of the industry, supply chains are undeveloped, and plenty of research is still needed in nearly every facet of the industry to help it reach maturity. And growers continue to face their share of challenges as they deal with oversupply and hot crops—last year in Massachusetts, for example, 40% of hemp crops tested above the 0.3% THC limit and had to be destroyed, according to the state’s department of agriculture.

The good news? Nearly every issue mentioned above either has been addressed for this upcoming season or is currently being tackled by hemp advocates who believe fiercely in the industry’s future.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) final rule on hemp, for example, took effect March 22, ushering in a new era of relative regulatory stability. And in the case of CBD, more research is coming out to prove the cannabinoid’s safety. (See Before You Go.) Some in the industry think the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will issue those regulations this year.

More people in the industry are also working to build out supply chains for the fiber industry in particular. One of those people is Harold Singletary, the subject of this month’s cover story. After Singletary learned the history of his ancestors in the 1990s, including that of his great-great-grandmother who was enslaved, he decided to pursue hemp as a way to bring more opportunities for Black farmers. But Singletary and others on his team at BrightMa Farms are also striving to create a more circular economy for hemp fiber by providing genetics and eventually adding processing services.

Plus, more hemp cultivation research is happening all the time, including a multi-state data collection effort in the Midwest that has resulted in an abundance of data for farmers to sift through to learn about best cultivars in their areas, common cultivation practices in the region and more. (See Research Roundup.)

We are also excited to announce our debut Hemp Grower Conference (Nov. 8-10 in Orlando, Fla.), which will bring hemp producers, researchers and other industry constituents from throughout North America together to continue to work through the issues that are hindering the industry, as well as share insights into best practices and areas of opportunity. (For more information, visit: HempGrowerConference.com.)

With so much happening in the industry, this year is sure to be a pivotal one for U.S. hemp farmers. We hope the stories within this issue help set you up for a profitable season and future for your business. Happy planting!