Field day mentors new hemp growers
BLACKSBURG, Va. — The hope of hemp held the attention of an unexpectedly large gathering of farmers Aug. 30 at the Virginia Tech Hemp Field Day.
It began at Kentland Farm near Virginia Tech and moved to the university’s Urban Horticulture Center.
Organizers were expecting 200 people based on pre-registration. Kelli Scott, Montgomery County Extension agent, reported the event attracted about 300 people.
Erin Williams, regulatory coordinator for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and an event speaker, said she believed it was one of the largest field days Virginia Cooperative Extension has sponsored.
Predictions of a big paycheck for the newly-legalized industrial hemp are feeding interest for farmers who may want to grow it.
According to VDACS, farmers applied for permits to grow about 8,500 acres of industrial hemp, though how much was actually planted is not yet known. The field day was designed to supply them with needed information about growing, processing, marketing and legal factors involved in the process.
Williams discussed many of the regulations hemp producers must follow to grow the new crop.
Producers and processors must have permits issued by VDACS which oversees the growing of industrial hemp.
Participants in the field day were allowed to move through research plots of hemp at the Urban Hort Center on Old Mill road.
Due to their intense interest, the agenda was altered so that they could interact with researchers, industry leaders and each other, sharing information and concerns.
Despite broiling heat, farmers listened intently as their questions were answered and other told of their experiences.
They heard about growing Certified Organic hemp and the steps necessary to become certified producers, following the same rules that apply to other Certified Organic operations.
A big issue that surfaced is Virginia’s lack of crop insurance for hemp.
People who have grown hemp in 2016, 2017 and 2018 under the guidance of the four universities researching it in Virginia are being asked to share information about their experiences by Sept. 10 to help get such insurance for the 2020 crop.
Jason Parker, a risk management specialist with J.T. Davis Insurance in Halifax County, Va., brought the need for hemp crop insurance to the attention of the participants.
He pointed out that surrounding states have this kind of crop insurance.
If insurance companies in Virginia are unable to offer this coverage, he indicated, it could mean the hemp production goes to other states that do offer it.
Parker said one of the U.S. Hemp Roundtable’s accomplishments was getting provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill to develop such insurance products.
He said that USDA will offer a Whole-Farm Revenue Protection program that includes hemp for crop year 2020.
WFRP allows coverage of all revenue for commodities produced on a farm up to a total insured revenue of $8.5 million.
It is popular for specialty crops, organic commodities and non-traditional crops.
According to the USDA’s Risk Management Agency, WFRP provisions state that hemp having THC above the compliance level will not constitute an insurable cause of loss.
Additionally, hemp will not qualify for replant payments under WFRP.
Parker pointed to the U.S. Hemp Farming Alliance’s cooperative effort with AgriLogic to develop the federal multi-peril crop insurance program for hemp.
The development of this program was approved by the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation in June.
“A multi-peril program would help protect all hemp farmers-large and small-and should be in place in a significant number of states by next year’s growing season,” according to the hemp roundtable.
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