A clear majority of hemp farmers and processors support establishing a federal program to promote the crop, according to a survey by two industry groups, but not everyone supports paying for it.
The National Industrial Hemp Council and the Hemp Industries Association polled their members late last year on the question of having a checkoff program, joining the dozen or so U.S. agricultural commodities that already have one. Nearly eight out of 10 hemp growers and processors favor a checkoff program.
“This is exciting news for our industry, and exciting that there is such wide consensus in our industry to support such a program,” said Patrick Atagi, Board Chairman of the National Industrial Hemp Council.
The now-famous “Got Milk?” campaign grew out of a checkoff program, which also funds research and educational efforts. Atagi said a checkoff program would “fund much-needed research and educate consumers on the usefulness and versatility of hemp.”
The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service currently promotes 21 different agricultural industries with checkoffs. Federal marketing programs, once in place, are mandatory assessments.
The industry groups will now form a panel of representatives from the industry to discuss how the checkoff program would work. Alth0ugh there’s overwhelming interest for a hemp checkoff program, HIA and NIHC still need to convince more industry players to buy into the idea of paying for the program.
Six out of 10 farmers and processors surveyed support paying an fee for the program. The USDA, which approves or denies checkoff programs, has said it will not institute one for hemp unless stakeholders at all levels of the supply chain are in favor.
“It’s clear from the survey response that there is a broad level of excitement around the idea of a national hemp checkoff program, and significant interest in the potential return the hemp industry could see from an effective research and marketing program under USDA,” said HIA President Rick Trojan.
HIA and NIHC said 270 hemp growers and processors completed the survey.
Michael Lewis, the founder and former CEO of Sprig, a CBD beverage company, said he likes the idea of promoting the crop, noting that “it’s still shocking” how little people know about hemp.
“I think the No. 1 challenge for the industry is still education and awareness,” he told Hemp Industry Daily. “So to me, those are the best investments that any stakeholder can make is, public education and awareness.”
But the reluctance to pay for a checkoff program is understandable given the volatility of the hemp industry, said Dreama Cecil, president of Cecil Farms in Archdale, N.C.
“If there was more stability in the hemp industry as a whole, I think it would be something that the farmers would be more interested in,” she said.
Ivan Moreno can be reached at [email protected]