With the commercial cultivation of industrial hemp now legal due to the 2018 Farm Bill, the civil society in the hemp industry will play a vital role in tackling the arising political, technological, and economic issues.
To fulfill this role, it’ll need to strengthen its capacity, which over the past decades, has been weakened by the economic and political marginalization caused by hemp’s previous legal status.
One way to achieve this is by adding professionalism and oversight to the hemp farming industry by forming farmers’ associations. These associations offer formality and organization by bringing like-minded people together and turning them into efficient and profitable professional units. In doing so, they act as an institutional mouthpiece for farmers.
Do you need to join a hemp farmers’ association? Here’s what you need to know.
Why Should You Join a Hemp Farmers Association?
There are hundreds of hemp farmers’ associations in the country, assisting hemp farmers to reach their full potential. Generally, these organizations have the following roles:
Help the Government Create Development Plans for Hemp Farming
Associations communicate the views of the farmers as well as that of the hemp industry to the relevant authorities. The association also acts as a channel that communicates government policies and plans to all the farmers. In the same breath, hemp farmers can express their concerns and views about those particular policies and plans through the associations.
The two-way communication that the hemp farmers’ association provides helps the government meet the needs of the farmers. For example, annual hemp production targets can be decided through close consultation between state-level governments and local farmers’ associations, whose opinions represent that of the average farmer. As a result, hemp production targets will be set depending on the ability of the farmers and the resources available, and not according to the state’s profitability index.
Additionally, hemp farmers’ associations can handle other government entrusted services such as distributing fertilizers as well as collecting and processing hemp products for the government.
Facilitate Agricultural Extension
Hemp is a versatile crop that can be grown for its oil, fiber, seeds, stalks, or as food. However, this versatility comes with a lot of confusion on how to appropriately grow the hemp for each purpose. Many hemp farmers still don’t know the correct farming practices to use for better yields.
Hemp farmers’ associations can help develop new agricultural practices and put them into actual use. Typically, this is done through an agricultural extension system that serves as a link between research, experimentation, and adoption of the new farming techniques.
Some of the key cultivation practices that have been adopted include the use of dual-purpose hemp varieties, sustainable farm practices for healthier products, and the use of high-level hemp processing systems and storage facilities. These practices help to increase farmers’ yields and make hemp cultivation less laborious, without compromising on quality.
Provide Hemp Farmers with Supply and Marketing Services
According to the U.S. Department for Agriculture, hemp farmers more than quadrupled the land dedicated to hemp from 27,424 acres in 2018 to 228,320 acres by the end of 2019. The number of new hemp farmers also increased significantly.
Sadly, many of the new farmers don’t know where to take their produce. The oversupply of hemp in the last financial year made things even worse for farmers.
Since the legalization of hemp cultivation in 2018, the industry is still considered relatively new. Therefore, it’s crucial to provide farmers with adequate inputs of production as well as convenient outlets for their produce. The hemp farmers’ associations play an active role in this regard.
Besides the supply of adequate farming inputs, the associations can provide marketing services in a bid to eliminate undue profiteering by hemp middlemen.
First off, it’s important to note that middlemen exist in the supply chain because of the asymmetries and inefficiencies that create market information barriers. However, this leads to market exploitation and lower returns.
To enhance farmers’ ROI, a hemp farmers’ association can enhance market knowledge to increase the farmers’ bargaining power and comparative advantage. Other ways that the association can help include strengthening business relationships between market actors through official contracts and helping farmers enhance value addition to their products before going into the market.
Supply Farm Credit to Hemp Farmers
Today’s modern hemp farming inputs mean higher production costs to the farmers, which can easily turn into a heavy financial burden that many can’t handle.
To help farmers with this constraint, farm credit is needed. However, many financial institutions are hesitant to grant loans to hemp farmers even after the crop was legalized at the federal level and limits the growth of the industry.
Farmers associations can act as co-operative banks where they accept deposits and savings from members and extend loans to the farmers. This not only promotes hemp production but also eliminates the stress of going through stringent measures and oversight from other financial institutions.
Additionally, because the associations have intimate knowledge of the hemp farmers’ needs and the conditions of the market, they offer adequate loans to the farmers. Hemp farmers feel more at ease discussing their financial situations with the association than with bankers who do not know the industry.
Joining a Hemp Farmers’ Association: Bottom Line
As America trends towards a sustainable future, the hemp plant plays a critical role in the development of a new economic paradigm and s calls for the urgent need to have a streamlined hemp industry. Hemp farmers’ associations can help in this regard because they’re responsible for informing the government and other responsible federal agencies about the situation and condition of the hemp farmer.
However, for you to enjoy the benefits of a farmers’ association, you need to join a group that’s active, efficient, and has good leadership. Many hemp farmers’ organizations become inactive or defunct over time because of poor leadership, which leads to many farmers facing looming losses during the financial year. Ensure you join established and reputable hemp farmers’ associations.
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