“Yes, Bob, There Is a Hemp Industry”
In a good-hearted exchange with longtime friend, colleague, collaborator and expert cannabis attorney Bob Hoban, I couldn’t help but challenge a recent article Bob had written in Forbes Magazine where he wondered if we truly have a “hemp industry” in the United States.
While industrial hemp has been around for millennia, Bob’s point was that hemp should be considered more as an agricultural commodity than its own industry. Further, he wondered if we may have gone wrong in treating hemp as an industry, in that it may have brought on specialized and restrictive hemp-specific regulations. “Wouldn’t it be more advantageous to treat hemp as just another agricultural crop that falls within the existing U.S. agricultural industry? Wouldn’t this truly open up mainstream agriculture to the grand possibilities of the industrial hemp plant?” Bob asked.
“Put another way, is there a corn industry? A wheat industry? Or just an agriculture industry consisting of corn, wheat, soy, etc.,” Bob asked. “Farmers are farmers — do we really need to specifically classify them as hemp farmers? Extraction processors are processors. Natural products (‘nutraceuticals’) are natural products industry producers; and the list goes on and on down the supply chain,” he wrote.
To me, the answer is yes, hemp is an emerging agricultural commodity of great potential to multiple industries that can make use of all parts of the plant – but also, yes, hemp is a unique industry in and of its own right, with its own unique history, that needs its own advocacy and representation.
Hemp is an industry – and a commodity – in a similar way that corn and soy are industries – and commodities. The goal all along has been to get hemp regulated like any agricultural crop, that’s true. But like timber, fossil fuel, corn, soy, dairy and more, all are also considered their own industries.
Like hemp, corn is used across multiple supply chains including human and animal food, dietary supplements, plastics and biofuels; soy is used in human and animal feed, plastics, industrial solvents, inks and printing, and in other manufacturing. However, corn as an industry in the U.S. has received a total of $113.9 billion in taxpayer supported government subsidies from 1995 to 2019, according to the Environmental Working Group, more than wheat, soybeans and rice combined. The U.S. soybean industry took a hit last year due to the U.S. trade war with China, with American soy producers receiving a big chunk of a $16-billion aid package in July 2019. The “thriving Brazilian soy industry” is reported to be a threat to the country’s rainforests and global climate targets.
Bob in his article recommends, “It might serve everyone’s interest to attach themselves to pre-existing trade organizations rather than separating themselves from established, standardized industries. For example, a hemp farmer might be better suited attaching himself to a strong farmers trade organization that understands hemp. A cannabinoid ingredient supplier might better attach herself to a natural products or ingredients trade alliance which recognizes the viability of hemp. Do we really need organizations that promote so-called hemp product standards? Or do these standards already exist in more broadly applicable food, supplement, or related regulatory frameworks?”
I agree and support this recommendation, in that companies selling CBD dietary supplements should consider being a member of the American Herbal Products Association or the Natural Products Association so that they can learn the specific regulations, labeling requirements, GMPs and other practices of that market. Hemp builders can join the U.S. Hemp Building Association. Farmers can affiliate with the U.S. Hemp Growers Association.
Hemp can serve many industries, and yet, we also should consider it an industry in and of itself. From a lobbying standpoint, we have to collectively promote all aspects of the plant. Yes, CBD will be regulated a little differently from grain and fiber, but as an industry, we have the power to fast forward the development of hemp in the animal feed market, the construction market, the food market, the fashion and fiber market, and more. We’ve got a long way to go to educate the consumer, as well as buyers and sellers in the hemp market. As an industry, together we can make a great impact on why people should be using environmentally friendly hemp products as an alternative to corn, soy, and fossil fuels.
These hemp sectors are all subsets of larger industries, agreed. And, they are fundamental parts of the overall hemp industry. It’s not either/or. It’s both. Thank you, Bob Hoban, for the lively discussion.
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Cannabis/hemp advocate and entrepreneur Morris Beegle is Co-founder and President of the WAFBA (We Are For Better Alternatives) family of brands, including the NoCo Hemp Expo, the world’s most comprehensive hemp-centric exposition, trade-show and conference, and Let’s Talk Hemp Media. WAFBA also includes Silver Mountain Hemp Guitars, maker of hand-crafted hemp guitars, cabinets and components; the Tree Free Hemp paper and printing company, and more. Spanning education, advocacy and entertainment, Beegle engages audiences around the world through podcasts, digital and print media, radio, television and live events.