A fluctuating and unpredictable industrial hemp market has increased risk for farmers, leading to a dwindling of acres planted in Pittsylvania County for growers who are wading through the still-new crop.
While there are no readily available statistics on hemp acreage for last year’s growing season, many farmers have greatly scaled back their hemp production.
Hemp is a blossoming industry, and the leafy plant is relatively easy to grow. Drought-tolerant, it thrives in Virginia’s climate, and farmers have faced relatively few problems with pests. Growers consider it similar to tobacco, making it an appropriate supplement to traditional crops.
Pittsylvania County has relatively few acres of hemp compared to other counties in Virginia, but farmers here mainly grow floral hemp — hemp that is harvested for the CBD in its flowers, rather than for its fiber or the CBD in its seeds — which turns a greater profit than the other kinds.
Hemp will not replace tobacco, Southside’s longtime agricultural moneymaker, but it is seen as a good way to increase profits in the long-term, growers say.
The real issues with raising hemp lie in issues of supply and demand: Prices of hemp have plummeted within the past few years.
“Most of the time … uncertainty in production is a result of undefined markets, and supply chain logistics not being in a manner in which the farmer can successfully deliver their product to the consumer side,” said Steven Barts, a Pittsylvania County extension agent.