The World Agriculture Expo is the largest annual outdoor agriculture exposition, with over 1,450 exhibitions and 100,000 plus attendees every year. This year, hemp fever was high. Although the crop has been legal for a little more than a year and the hemp industry is still in its infancy, the cash crop was big during the 2020 Ag Expo.
The 2018 Farm Bill legalized industrial hemp and its extracts after decades of prohibition, and the industry blew up soon after. Hemp has a plethora of uses, ranging from textiles and construction to bioplastics and food. Within a year, the sector was worth millions in sales, and if it keeps growing at this pace, experts predict it will hit $20 billion by 2024.
Christian Gray with HiLo Seed Company was one of the expo’s partners around hemp this year, and he says the excitement around hemp is almost palpable. “It’s not every day that agriculture gets a new plant to grow. This will never happen again in our lifetime,” he says, adding that hemp is probably the only crop that will come out of prohibition in his lifetime.
Last year, Vote Hemp occupied the Agriculture Expo’s only hemp booth but this year, there were more than 30 hemp booths occupying a corner of the 2.6 million square foot exhibition space. “It’s representative of the industry’s growth and a testament to traditional agriculture’s interest in hemp as a commodity crop,” says Johnson, Vote Hemp’s California Outreach Director.
This year’s Expo also saw an increased number of women in hemp, including presentations from the Women in Ag Networking Group and the World Ag Women Pavilion.
Although the crop has gained immense popularity, there are still a lot of kinks that need to be worked out before the industry can truly function. Last October, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published its interim final rule on hemp, giving hemp a more comprehensive regulatory structure.
Although the rule broadened the language introduced by the 2018 Farm Bill, there have been numerous complaints that the new rules are too stringent, and they may spell doom for the nascent sector.
As regulatory authorities work on comprehensive regulations, Johnson advises farmers interested in hemp to play it smart, urging them to exercise caution until the industry stabilizes.
“Don’t go all-in with hemp, unless you have a contract or the readiness to lose everything you’ve invested in planting the crop.”
Experts agree that hemp companies like Lexaria Bioscience Corp. (CSE: LXX) (OTCQX: LXRP) are encouraged by the response to such expos since all indications are that the industry has a bright future.
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