Economic Perspective: Is Hemp the Next Big Crop?

NC State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences professor Dr. Mike Walden working in a recording studio.

MARY WALDEN:

“Today’s program asks if hemp is the next big crop. Mike, for decades hemp was banned from being grown primarily due to its genetic relationship to marijuana. Now I understand hemp is being grown under controlled conditions, and many farmers are excited about its potential as a money-making crop. What is hemp’s future?”

MIKE WALDEN:

“Well I think there is a future, and in fact a specific type of hemp is being grown in controlled pilot cases and at some universities. It’s primarily being limited for development in industrial uses, particularly in textiles as well as in some cases medical uses. Some people see hemp as being a multibillion dollar industry worldwide, and maybe within a decade it will see, maybe, 10, 15, 20 billion dollars of sales.”

“I will say that still pales in comparison to the revenue earned by tobacco. So I don’t think hemp is going to take the place of tobacco. I think it will become a supplemental crop to farmers, including farmers in North Carolina. It’ll help many farmers, maybe, who’ve lost some of that revenue from tobacco, but I don’t see hemp having the kind of economic impact that we saw from tobacco in North Carolina over many, many decades.”

“And the university, particularly through Extension faculty, are contributing to this because one problem with developing hemp right now – it hasn’t been grown for decades so we don’t have farmers out there who know a lot about it, and that’s really where the university extension faculty are serving an important role.”

Mike Walden is a William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor and Extension Economist in
the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at North Carolina State University who
teaches and writes on personal finance, economic outlook and public policy.

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