The story of hemp in America fits the perfect example of “the stone that the builder refused” narrative. For the longest time, hemp has been ostracized and frowned upon in many areas. How is it that this plant that has been treated with such negativity could be the unlikely savior and hero for many farmers, and probably a sector of the agricultural the US?
In any industry, sustainability and job creation are at the center of most of the discussions that the key players have. The tobacco industry has been a major player in the American agricultural sector for years. However, this is an industry that has suffered a lot over the years. From legislative challenges to social advocacy and the risks to human health, tobacco is not as lucrative as an industry as it was back in the day. To be honest, it’s still a very rich industry, worth millions, if not billions of dollars. However, the war against tobacco, which has been sustained for a long time, keeps eating into the profit margins, and a lot of people don’t find it attractive anymore.
On the other hand, hemp is offering a beautiful, rich alternative. Hemp serves a lot of purposes. Besides, the fact that it can thrive in the climates suitable for growing tobacco means that most of the tobacco farmers can easily switch to hemp without worrying about an expensive tradeoff.
The Rise and Rise of Hemp
The tobacco industry is feeling the brunt of constant badgering by social activists, medical experts, and legislation. At the same time, people are waking up to the reality that hemp is not as bad a plant as they used to assume it was. Researchers are constantly publishing reports from their studies, showing the benefits of using hemp, and highlighting the uses to which hemp can be put. Keeping this in mind, there’s so much that we can look forward to.
In the 1980s, more than 180,000 farms were growing tobacco in the US alone. Fast forward to 2012 and barely 10,000 farms are still growing tobacco. In order to boost their income, most of these farmers have had to switch from tobacco or have started growing tobacco alongside other plants. This is where industrial hemp has come in handy.
Compared to tobacco, growing hemp doesn’t just confer financial benefits to the farmers. There’s more to it. There’s the environmental angle also. Hemp has a relatively smaller environmental footprint compared to tobacco. You will not use as many pesticides on hemp as you would have to use on tobacco. There’s no need to use herbicides on hemp either.
Growing hemp is, therefore, a cost-effective option for farmers. Hemp can be used to slow the growth of weeds in the farm. Other than that, it also helps to keep the soil loose, especially for someone who intends to plant cereals during the winter. This makes hemp one of the best rotation crops.