Hemp pilot program hopes to gain more info on crop, protect farmers


WASHINGTON (Nexstar) — Virginia is joining other states as part of a pilot program to develop for hemp crops. Last year, Congress approved the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, which legalized and clearly defined hemp as an agricultural commodity. 

Now that it is legal, harvesting hemp is a growing option for farmers nationwide.

“The growing and sale of industrial hemp will be a real shot in the arm in Virginia,” said Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia).

Warner believes hemp production can help farmers expand their income, but he added there are risks involved with growing a new crop, and farmers need protection.

“If we are going to have fully legal hemp growing, like any new grow, you need a crop insurance program,” he said.

Warner pushed to make sure Virginia was one of nearly a dozen states included in a pilot program that provides crop insurance to hemp growers. Supporters see it as a safety net in case farmers lose their crops to a natural disaster.

“There is so much demand out there, so much interest here,” said Sonny Perdue, Agriculture Department Secretary.

Perdue said there’s still a lot to learn about hemp. Officials said the pilot program can help determine potential threats to crops and serve as an insurance model. Perdue wants to make sure hemp profits outweigh the costs.

“We really need to define what are those industrial uses maybe of the fiber. We know there is a demand for the CBD oil,” Perdue said.

Federal leaders said the pilot program could begin in time for the 2020 growing season.

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