The Passage of the federal 2018 Farm Bill is poised to change things for the better in the hemp industry. The new law removes the Cannabis sativa L plant from the Controlled Substances Act and from oversight by the U.S. Justice Department and places it under the purview of the Department of Agriculture. While still heavily regulated, hemp farming and the manufacture and sale of hemp-based products will now be lawful activities. This opens the door to massive growth and expansion in the hemp industry. It also means the demand for hemp real estate will soon be on an immense upswing.
Recent and Current Status of the Hemp Industry
Subsequent to the 2014 Farm Bill, agriculture state departments and research institutions were permitted to cultivate industrial hemp. This production owas limited to research and study purposes, though part of this research included learning about the marketing potential of this crop. Many states initiated agricultural pilot programs to move forward with this production.
In 2017, the hemp market generated $291 million. In the U.S., more than 3,500 licensed cultivators produced between 23,000 and 26,000 acres of hemp in 19 states. This represented a 163 percent boost over 2016, with 9,770 acres. By this year, the acreage had increased to 77,000 acres.
Due to the prohibition on the commercial growth of hemp in the U.S., many companies had to rely on imports from Canada, China, Romania, India, Chile, the Dominican Republic and a few scattered European countries. The bulk of U.S. hemp imports – 90 percent – were supplied by Canada. The Federation of American Scientists numbers reveal a 2015 import market of $78.1 million. By last year, that number had dropped to $67.3 million. But with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, the amount of hemp imports should decrease substantially. American farmers will be growing their own with the loosened commercial hemp production laws.
The U.S. hemp product retail sales market in 2017 was estimated at $553 million. This includes a wide range of goods, like personal care products, supplements and food. When clothing, textiles, building materials, auto parts and other miscellaneous products are added, the total is closer to $820 million.
Projections for the Future of the Hemp Industry
Hemp farming has great potential. It’s a hardy crop and needs less water, fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides than corn. It succeeds in most environments, making it suitable for farmers across the nation. It also lends itself to organic farming due to its minimal input requirements, fast growth, weed resistance, and endurance against diseases and pests. And with more than 25,000 recognized uses, hemp is the definition of a super crop.
There are numerous projections on the future of the hemp market. The Brightfield Group is predicting a boom upwards of 450 percent growth by 2021, surging to $6.5 billion. By 2022, the group predicts an increase 40 times over, generating a $22 billion market.
A driving factor in the projected growth of the hemp market is increased consumer demand for goods infused with Cannabidiol (CBD) oil. Consumer awareness about the potential therapeutic benefits of CBD has recently exploded, and it doesn’t appear that it will be dying down anytime soon. As part of the wellness industry — a powerhouse sector, already – the production of CBD-infused goods is expected to increase in profitability. Forbes estimates that the CBD consumer market will hit $2.1 billion in within two years. This will require the increased production of CBD-producing hemp crops.
Real Estate Demand
The full impact of the new Farm Bill on hemp cultivation, CBD-products, the real estate market and other sectors won’t be fully realized for some time. But it’s obvious that changes are coming. With the move to lawful production, there will be an increased demand for hemp and hemp-derived goods. Farmers will soon need more land to cultivate larger amounts of hemp crops.
Farmers have been noticing the profitability of hemp. For example, one Kentucky farmer explained the disparity in growing soybeans versus hemp. One acre of soybeans would yield about $500 on today’s market. In stark comparison, that same acre of hemp with CBD-rich flowers might sell for up to $30,000. It’s a lucrative cash crop and the new law makes commercial production a reality for a growing number of farmers.
This year, the top five states with the most hemp acreage are:
- Montana – 13,141 acres
- Colorado – 5,562 acres
- Kentucky – 4,615 acres
- North Carolina – 3,263 acres
- North Dakota – 2,669 acres
Hemp-planted land in the remaining hemp-producing states ranges from 12 acres to 726 acres. While this hemp acreage has grown since the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill, that growth will pale in comparison to the boom coming due to the new Farm Bill law. But even small family farms, of no more than 7 acres, will be able to realize a profit from hemp crops.
The demand for hemp currently exceeds the available supply in the U.S. Established farmers are eager to meet this demand. And with the money to be made in this industry, newcomers are likely to try their hand, as well. This influx of new hemp farmers is sure to have an impact on real estate – specifically, an increased demand for agricultural land.
These projected changes won’t happen overnight. But industry pros need to be prepared in order to benefit from the expected growth. Education and awareness about the possibilities in the hemp and CBD industry are key.