It seems no matter where we go, we can never escape discussion of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The viral disease and the shutdowns triggered all across the country in order to fight it have occupied headlines and had major impacts on just about everyone’s lives. It will also have an immense influence on planting by farmers, including those who grow industrial hemp.
Industrial hemp was legalized at the end of 2018, and has since exploded as an element of construction, textiles and other industries, but especially for its extraction for the purposes of CBD oil manufacture.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a compound found in the cannabis sativa hemp plant which does not have the intoxicating effects of THC or marijuana. It grows fast and requires little water, but that doesn’t mean the pandemic won’t hamper production.
“The market right now for every crop is in flux,” Dr. Katelyn Kesheimer, a hemp researcher at Auburn University, told Hemp Grower. “We still have a bit of wiggle room for planting dates over the next couple of weeks from southern to northern Alabama, so I think everyone is just watching the market and waiting to see what happens.”
Alabama’s growing season reflects the rest of the country. Hired hands across the continent are important for getting seed in the ground, and social distancing and state bans could all put stresses on new planting.
“While markets are largely efficient, this situation is unique, and coming to terms with uncertainties will take some time,” said a March 17 study from the University of Illinois Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics. “In this time period, expectations should be for erratic markets, leading to lower prices in the short-term.”
In some processing plants where hemp is turned into CBD, meanwhile, companies have donated N95 respirator masks to essential health care workers, leaving fewer for the production of CBD oils and other products.
Despite the hiccups in this year’s hemp planting season, there is still a possibility that farmers may see relief soon.
According to reporting at UPI, the Paycheck Protection Program Increase Act, which passed late last week, expanded considerations to hemp farmers.
The system of emergency loans and payouts will be administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“Agriculture is deemed essential, but there's an agricultural dynamic that's being created by the pandemic where it's interfering with the supply chain,” Colorado Hemp Industries Association President Tim Gordon told UPI. “These disruptions are going all the way to the hemp farmers.”