Hemp growers decline in Kansas and across the country


NICKERSON – Three years ago the Hiatt family decided to embark on a new adventure by turning a few acres of farmland into an industrial hemp field. Every year they learn, and every year they pivot. Sometimes a little; sometimes a lot.

Across the country, hemp growers like the Hiatt’s are changing what they are doing or leaving the industry.

The big bust

“Last year, nationally, the number of acres declined significantly from the previous year,” said Sheldon Coleman, CEO of Sunnyland Kansas to McPherson. “The numbers are all over the map, and I’ll use an average, about 110,000 acres were authorized in 2019 and are down to about 45,000 acres in 2020 (nationwide).”

Coleman said that number has declined to about 20,000 to 30,000 acres planted nationwide today.

“So (nationally) you’re down 80% in two years,” Coleman said. “You have a huge oversupply in 2019 and the prices are crashing. Farmers do not know how to sell their product. “

Coleman said there are estimates that 50% of the crop in 2019 was not harvested and died in the field. Unless the farmers had an outlet for their crops, there wasn’t much of a market.

“People could make $ 25,000 an acre growing hemp and selling biomass – just selling the plant material in 2017 and 2018,” he said.

In Kansas, the number of growers has grown from about 275 in 2020 to just over 80 in 2021.

Stay in power

Sara Hiatt takes a hemp plant and removes all leaves and flowers with her returning husband Bob Hiatt on Friday at High Point Family Farms near Nickerson.

The Hiatts, who run High Point Family Farms just outside Nickerson, realized early on that not only was industrial hemp difficult to grow, but it was also difficult to find a market for their product. Last year one of their fields contained too much THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) – the hallucinogen in it, so that field was destroyed.

Currently in Kansas, if the sampling is too high for THC, above 0.3%, the entire crop must be disposed of. THC is the main compound in cannabis that is responsible for creating a high. Each area is regulated and tested by the government. Industrial hemp, used for CBD – non-intoxicating cannabinoids – rope, fabric and grain, is a variety of the same species of plant as cannabis; however, this crop yields low levels of THC.

This year, a pack of armyworms decided to cross both Hiatt’s field and one of their greenhouses, crippling some of their well-kept plants.

Following:The armyworm walks through the Midwest. When will he stop killing the grass?

After caring for the crop for several months, eliminating the males – growing CBD only requires female plants – and destroying all insects without pesticides – the Hiatts must cut and harvest each plant by hand. They then dry the buds for about 24 hours, bag them, and then take the product to an extractor for processing. At this point, the Hiatt’s either sell the product or send it to another processor in Kansas to make tinctures, capsules, or gummies.

After a year, what the Hiatt’s realized was that there weren’t too many buyers of their raw product, so they decided to change the paradigm and become retailers as well, keeping supply chain close to home.

“We have planted a lot less plants this year,” said Sara Hiatt. “This year we have around 2,100 factories. Last year we had around 5,000.”

Dried hemp is collected in a bag at High Point Family Farms on Friday, October 8, 2021, near Nickerson.

The couple and their three adult children have opened a CBD store, State-of-the-art pharmacies on Main Street in Hutchinson last spring. In addition to their house brand products, grown directly on their family farm, they sell their own honey, as well as other hemp products. But, it is difficult for people selling industrial hemp products to get loans – so expansion will take time.

One day, the family hopes to make the business more than a side job. But for now, they’re working hard to grow their business, attend fairs, and shop the storefront. They also try in different ways to preserve the environment of their land and plants. By having friendly insects like ladybugs, introducing sugars, and keeping roots alive in the soil every day of the year, Bob Hiatt and his son Nate are changing soil nutrition.

“I’m pretty disappointed (with this year’s crop),” said Bob Hiatt. “But we are still going to produce fairly decent oil.”

Likewise, the owners of Sunnyland Kansas, a father-and-son team that started growing hemp in Oregon, understand the need to be part of the supply chain. In addition to growing its own industrial hemp, this company sells seeds, consults, dries and packages the product.

Following:Making hemp accessible: bringing this ancient culture from the farm to the city center

California just changed its law on the sale of industrial hemp products

Bob Hiatt carefully examines the hemp plants in the greenhouse before harvesting them Friday morning at High Point Family Farms near Nickerson.

With a stroke of the pen, last Wednesday, California changed the retail paradigm of industrial hemp products. California Governor Gavin Newsom has opened up retail markets for non-intoxicating cannabinoids.

In the Golden State, CBD can now be sold as a dietary supplement and can be included in cosmetics, drinks, and pet food. But in doing so, California will demand strict guidelines for testing and labeling.

The state also, once it defined a tax method, involved the use of commercial hemp products intended for smoking.

This opens up the market for Kansas hemp growers and helps Kansas lawmakers address new retail markets.

However, the FDA: US Food and Drug Administration, declares that CBD products cannot be sold as dietary supplements under the FD&C law and cannot be added to food for humans or animals.

In 2018, the FDA cleared “three food ingredients derived from hemp seeds intended for human consumption: shelled hemp seeds, hemp seed protein powder, and hemp seed oil,” according to the. FDA decisions on industrial hemp.

Following:Industrial hemp products in Kansas

The next wave of hemp sales

According to Sheldon Coleman, 25 to 30,000 acres of hemp can meet most of the consumer demand for products in the United States. This paves the way for companies to move out of American borders.

“Larger companies are starting to see exports overtake domestic sales,” said Christian Coleman, president of Sunnyland.

In addition, according to him, minor cannabinoids, like CBG, come in very strong. Some of those packaged consumer products are about to explode, he said.

In addition, there is the grain side, which Christian Coleman says is under study for hemp seed protein and animal feed.

“We just think now that we see where it starts to stabilize (supply and demand),” said Sheldon Coleman. “There are still products being dumped from 2019 and 2020. But we are starting to see a shortage developing again, and the people who have hung on to it are starting to see a few more opportunities.”

Following:Kansas’ first industrial hemp fiber processing plant opens in Great Bend

Kansas is home to a new fiber factory and one of the region’s largest hemp dryers

Kansas is also home to a new fiber factory, South Bend Industrial Hemp Processing in the big bend. This plant is one of the few in the country that can process hemp fiber directly from the field.

The Sunflower State is also home to one of the region’s largest hemp dryers, at the Sunnyland Processing Plant in McPherson.

In addition to good agricultural practices, Kansas’ weather presents a challenge. The volatility of the industrial hemp market remains an important factor for profitability.

“Kansas needs to do two things, one is to step up dietary supplements and (two) adopt smoking products (non-hallucinogenic hemp products),” said Sheldon Coleman.

Neither the Hiatt’s nor the Colemans give up on their dream of helping others get good quality CBD grown in Kansas.

Following:Demand for hemp fiber rises as growers see untapped market

“The most exciting thing for me is finding out that our product works for our customers,” said Sara Hiatt. “We hear it all the time.”

About Donnie R. Losey

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