Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Small-time hemp farmers forming cooperatives, fear new industry will consolidate like rest of agriculture

Tony Silvernail, left, and Shawn Lucas with hemp that is drying. (Ohio Valley ReSource photo by Liam Niemeyer)
Hundreds of Ohio Valley farmers have begun growing hemp after the 2018 Farm Bill made it legal on a nationwide scale; some of them are banding together to help figure out the business.

Long-time organic farmer Tony Silvernail in Frankfort, Kentucky, and business partner Shawn Lucas, a Kentucky State University professor, founded a cooperative for organic hemp farmers with smaller operations. "The cooperative purchases hemp seed and other supplies in bulk to get a better deal," Liam Niemeyer reports for Ohio Valley ReSource, a public-radio consortium. "It sells the members’ collective hemp harvest to processors, using the strength in numbers to bargain for better prices. And the cooperative helps farmers figure out how to even grow the crop in the first place."

The co-op has only 15 farmers so far, with about 30 acres among them. They've run into difficulties with buying the right seed, and thwarting thieves (who likely thought the hemp was marijuana) stealing plants from fields. "Silvernail said it’s all part of the learning process," Niemeyer reports.

The small-time farmer co-op is also an effort to stay standing in an industry where larger corporations have already been trying to corner the hemp and cannabidiol market by lobbying for legislation that would have favored them. "Regional agriculture leaders are championing hemp’s potential for farms of all sizes," Niemeyer reports. "But these hemp farmers worry that the sort of corporate consolidation they’ve seen in other agriculture sectors will soon come to the new hemp industry."

State House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins applauds as the Hemp
Hawk is unveiled. (Morehead News photo by Stephanie Ockerman)
Meanwhile, two companies in Morehead, Ky., have invented a hemp cultivator that can also be used on other crops, reports Stephanie Ockerman of The Morehead News. "The tractor-powered Hemp Hawk was loaded to a truck that day headed for the CBD Expo in Denver."

Max Hammond, CEO of A-1 Implements, told, “We are creating a new economy for Eastern Kentucky. We will revitalize our hillside farms. We will have other developments come to Eastern Kentucky because of this agri-tech industry and because of the hemp that will be coming to Eastern Kentucky.” The Hemp Hawk was manufactured at 4-C Innovations.

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