In 2021, more than 50,000 acres of land in the United States was used for hemp farming. Montana is the nation’s biggest hemp producer, and the value for hemp in the U.S. topped $800 million last year. And, the nation’s hemp industry is mostly white and mostly male.
These are some of many findings from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s first-ever Hemp Acreage and Production Survey, the results of which were released on Thursday. The trove of data is the result of the USDA sending out 20,500 producer surveys, conducted nationwide since October. The survey covers areas including price and value, as well as overall hemp acreage. The survey will be used as a tool for regulators, state governments, and hemp growers and processors.
The survey breaks down hemp producers’ backgrounds, and 90% said they were “white,” while 82% reported being male. Just 6% of the country’s hemp farmers who filled out surveys said they were Black.
Most are also new farmers, with 58% reporting that they’ve been farming for five years or fewer.
The states where hemp production was highest are, in decreasing order: Montana, with 4,500 acres of hemp harvested; Colorado, with 3,100 acres; Minnesota with 2,300 acres; California with 2,250 acres; and Utah with 2,150 acres. Hawaii is not known for hemp, as farmers harvested and planted just 17 acres.
Colorado was also the state with the biggest losses. While the survey indicated that farmers harvested just over 3,000 acres, cultivators planted a total of 10,100 acres. Reasons that hemp might be planted but not harvested could be cold freezes or other weather events like storms and droughts, or failing to meet THC testing requirements.
Farmers are growing mostly for fiber, which accounted for 33.2 million pounds grown. Flower was a close second up, with hemp growers cultivating just under 20 million pounds. But, when it comes to the value of these two crops, hemp flower was worth $623 million, and fiber just $41.4 million.
“The release of this landmark report provides a needed benchmark about hemp production to assist producers, regulatory agencies, state governments, processors, and other key industry entities,” the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) Administrator Hubert Hamer said in a statement. “Not only will these data guide USDA agencies in their support of domestic hemp production, the results can also help inform producers’ decisions about growing, harvesting, and selling hemp as well as the type of hemp they decide to produce. The survey results may also impact policy decisions about the hemp industry.”
The 2018 Farm Bill legalized cannabis with .3% THC or less, also known as hemp. Since then, the USDA – and, to a lesser extent, other federal agencies – has steadily built out rules for its Domestic Hemp Production Program to guide different aspects of regulation of the plant.
State agriculture regulators set their hemp-related priorities this week at their Winter Policy Conference.