Arkansas hemp industry growing despite 94% of farmers losing money in 2019

Agriculture officials in Arkansas are saying most of the state’s hemp farmers lost money last year, but the agriculture department is still seeing increased interest from new farmers and processors for 2020.

The Arkansas Department of Agriculture has issued licenses to 152 growers and 39 processors for the 2020 season, up from 125 growers and 33 processors in 2019.

According to a survey of hemp growers by the Arkansas Department of Agriculture, 94% of hemp growers lost money last year.

Farmers planted 1,819 acres of hemp in 2019 but harvested 883 acres, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

While growers reported capital investments of more than $5.8 million, total operating costs of $5.9 million, and sales to processors reaching nearly $846,000, their total gross income was $709,291, averaging $3,266.

Hemp farmers said they couldn’t sell 54.6% of the 2019 crop and 108,000 pounds still remains in storage awaiting processing. Of the 33 state processors, only half reported buying hemp from Arkansas growers.

Aside from slow sales, growers blamed spring rains and flooding, insects including caterpillars and theft of hemp crops for their financial losses, along with the general learning curve involved in producing the crop.