Hemp farmers in select states will be eligible for insured crops thanks to a new crop protection program, announced the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Aug. 27. The USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) is working on finalizing the regulations for the Whole-Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) program, which will go into effect in 2020. It will cover hemp grown for fiber, flower or seeds up to $8.5 million.
Farmers in Colorado, Kentucky, Oregon and Tennessee who were enrolled in the 2014 university research pilot program operated under Section 7606 will be the first to be eligible for the WFRP, explained a news release from the RMA. Other hemp farmers in the U.S. will have to wait until more developments regarding the 2018 Farm Bill roll out.
“Numerous producers are anxious for a way to protect their hemp crops from natural disasters. The WFRP policy will provide a safety net for them,” RMA Administrator Martin Barbe said in the news release. “We expect to be able to offer additional hemp coverage options as USDA continues implementing the 2018 Farm Bill.”
When Amendment 64 passed in Colorado in 2012, it loosened the grips on hemp production and allowed registered farms to cultivate hemp, but there was little control or regulation. The 2014 Farm Bill defined things a bit more for farmers and created the pilot program, which allocated more farm land for hemp farms in select states, Colorado included. The 2018 Farm Bill was a big step for hemp, because it essentially reclassified the non-psychoactive plant as a farmable crop and gave it an identity separate from cannabis. It monumentally legalized and regulated the growth and production of hemp. The 2018 Farm Bill categorized hemp as a standard crop rather than a federally illegal substance, but only as long as the crop tested below 0.3 percent THC by dry weight. All of these bills paved the way for the next and ultimately landing with the current development of the WFRP.
It’s risky for farmers who operate without insurance, especially in Colorado where weather conditions can be severe year-round. Many of Colorado’s hemp farms are located in southern or eastern Colorado, where the lands are flat, dry and hot. With this comes extreme winds, rain, hail and even tornadoes.
Chris Hammer, president of Hammer Enterprises LLC, operates hemp farms in Byers and Wiggins, which are located in eastern Colorado. Not one plant of his combined 1,110 acres of hemp has ever been insured, creating a lot of margin for nonreplaceable and nonrefundable errors. Luckily, this will all change as Hammer Enterprises will be eligible for WFRP in 2020.
Hammer told CULTURE that his crops experienced major damage from hailstorms out on the plains. “Fortunately, a lot of the plants came back, but we still sustained major loss because of it,” he said.
Hemp is a highly desired and helpful product these days. Its fibers are used to make paper, rope, clothing or housing materials. The seeds are nutritious and used in many foods. CBD, which can be extracted from hemp, has taken the nation by storm and can be found in everything from dog supplements to sparkling water. It’s no secret that there is a demand for hemp, and taking care of the farmers encourages the cultivators to grow the best possible product, with the most reliable methods.
“Federal crop insurance will be helpful to hemp growers in the future, as hemp is affected by nature’s fury just like every other crop. We look forward to the day that crop insurance is offered to hemp farms just like any other agricultural commodity,” Hammer said.
“Federal crop insurance will be helpful to hemp growers in the future, as hemp is affected by nature’s fury just like every other crop. We look forward to the day that crop insurance is offered to hemp farms just like any other agricultural commodity.”
In the meantime, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service is sorting out the details for a USA plan for the production of hemp and how to submit plans to farm hemp for state, territorial or tribal plans. An announcement in the Federal Register will post later this year. The RMA, Farm Service Agency and Natural Resources Conservation Service will announce details regarding assistance programs, farm loans, conservation and safety nets.