Pushing Through Change

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November 9, 2021

As the end of the year approaches, I am always reminded of two things: How quickly a year can pass, and how much can change in that seemingly short amount of time.

This issue marks Hemp Grower’s second anniversary in print, serving as yet another reminder of how fast things change. We launched the print component of the HG brand just about a year after the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp in the U.S., and at the time, the energy throughout the industry was palpable. That year, farmers grew more acres of hemp than ever before, and the stigma that many still attached to ‘hemp’ quickly lost ground as the plant entered the mainstream.

Then, just as the industry was finding its bearings, COVID-19 hit—and I don’t think it’s any exaggeration to say it flipped the entire world on its head.

Coming of age at the beginning of a pandemic is an enormous challenge. But the wonderful thing about a new industry is how malleable it is. That, paired with hemp’s versatility and newfound focus on developing domestic supply chains, carried (and continues to carry) the industry through an unprecedented time in history.

Other challenges, to be sure, have shaped this new industry. Oversupply has weighed heavily on many producers, causing price compression and a significant drop in acreage. Business intelligence and cannabis data firm New Frontier Data estimates 200,000 acres of hemp were licensed in the U.S. in 2021. That’s a decrease from the roughly 335,000 acres of hemp that were estimated to be licensed in 2020, according to Vote Hemp, and a nearly 60% decrease from the more than 500,000 acres licensed in 2019. This has meant not only fewer acres being grown, but also fewer hemp businesses. 

While discouraging, these growing pains were to be expected (and were even predicted by some). After all, it’s easy to forget just how new the U.S. industry still is given everything cultivators, business owners and researchers have accomplished. CBD popularity is still booming—according to a 2020 survey from SingleCare, a prescription discount program, nearly a third of Americans have used CBD. That’s up significantly in just one year since Gallup took a similar poll, where just 14% of Americans said they’d used CBD.

And in just three years since hemp’s full legalization, entrepreneurs have further developed innovative products made from hemp, including bioplastics, paper products, wood and construction materials, just to name a few. 

Some things that haven’t changed in the two years since Hemp Grower’s first print issue? Farmers’ resiliency. Peoples’ passion for this plant. The hope that it will change the world.

These are the reasons many of us entered the industry, and they’re great reasons to stick around through the many more changes that are likely to come.

Theresa Bennett tbennett@gie.net