For many, the 2018 Farm Bill was a game-changer. The legislation legalized the cultivation and sale of industrial hemp and its extracts, finally allowing farmers access to an immensely profitable cash crop. Cannabidiol (CBD) has made hemp even more valuable. After just a year of legal sales, CBD is worth millions in sales, with experts saying it will hit $20 billion by 2024.
Last December, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a much-awaited bill into law, finally giving the New York hemp/CBD industry a regulatory framework for hemp extract production, processing, and commerce. The bill further updates the hemp permitting process and regulates the extract industry through a set of production standards, testing, and labeling.
Senator Jen Metzger co-sponsored the bill, and according to her, the passage of the legislation is of great importance to New York farmers and to the economy. “It creates a nation-leading framework for growing, processing and selling hemp products in the state.”
A group of New York farmers has come together under the moniker ‘Hempire State Growers’. Founded by sisters Amy and Gail Hepworth, seventh-generation farmers with an organic farm in Milton. The cooperative helps members with growing hemp, navigating the network of regulations and most of all, to compete with larger firms.
Jason D. Minard is a hemp grower who also serves as Hempire’s in-house attorney, and he helped to draft the hemp law with state lawmakers. He says the legislation creates the most comprehensive legal framework in the U.S., and it will benefit farmers by setting clear standards and keeping out fraudulent players.
“You have to be licensed to grow it, to process it and sell it at retail. It’s going to provide a safer, more transparent process, no more fake CBD oil at gas stations.”
The cooperative consists of a core group of 12 farms in Ulster County with 200 acres of hemp collectively. According to Minard, 2019’s crop has already been harvested and dried, and once it’s processed onsite at Hepworth farms, the cooperative will market the CBD as a ‘quality New York State organically grown product.’
Hemp produced by the cooperative produces high levels of CBD at 19% in the flower, compared to the average yield of 10% or lower. And to counter the federal THC limits, the cooperative has set up an in-house lab to test their members’ hemp to maximize CBD while remaining federally compliant.
As bigger firms start looking to hemp and CBD, such small farmers may be forced out of the industry. Cooperatives like Hempire offer a way for them to thrive in a highly competitive sector.
“The only way to compete is with a cooperative,” says Minard.
Those words may also auger well in the ears of industry players like SinglePoint Inc. (OTCQB: SING) who would prefer to deal with organized groups rather than individual farmers.
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