By Theresa Sisung
Michigan Farm Bureau hosted its first Hemp Conference Feb. 4 with a great turnout of interested members and knowledgeable presenters.
More than 100 members attending the daylong event learned about industry trends, regulations, market opportunities and challenges. They heard firsthand from growers who raised hemp in 2019, including Andy Bishop, who has been working with the crop for numerous years in Kentucky.
Some of Andy’s best advice was to work backwards in the growing process: see where the demand is, determine where you are going to sell the product, learn what those buyers want and any growing requirements they have. He said the biggest problems facing the industry today are oversupply, pesticide residue (even in fields that weren’t sprayed) and hemp that has a THC level above the 0.3% threshold.
Andy was incredibly honest with the group and set realistic expectations for them about the time and care involved in growing the crop, along with income potential. While there is plenty of opportunity in growing hemp, it is not a get-rich-quick crop!
Several speakers shared their belief that hemp’s future is largely in industrial applications — not CBD — and that interested growers should be looking for other markets. They strongly encouraged prospective growers to consider raising varieties geared toward seed or fiber production.
Attendees also heard from Gina Alessandri, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s (MDARD) hemp director. She provided an overview of current regulations and offered a sneak peek into where those regulations may move in the future.
One major takeaway from Gina’s presentation was that Michigan will be growing hemp in 2020 under MDARD’s ag pilot program, just like in 2019. Beyond the 2020 growing season, Michigan hemp growers will be required to abide by USDA’s hemp rules.
Other presentations included a research update from Michigan State University; a Farm Bureau Insurance discussion about insurance options; and panel discussions featuring both farmers and processors.
Thank you to the MFB members who spoke at the event: Christie Apple, Nate Wittkamp and Mike Klumpp.
Theresa Sisung serves Michigan crop farmers as MFB’s associate field crops and advisory team specialist; contact her at 517-323-6729.