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Tobacco Farmers Are Switching To Hemp

By Viviana Echeverria

It smells like a pot, it looks like pot. This is hemp – the legal cousin of marijuana. And, it is about to become the sensation of all time. In several states across the United States especially North Carolina and Kentucky, many farmers are planting less of tobacco in contrast to their dependence on the plant. The reason, they say, is due to health concerns about tobacco. Till date, there has been an increase in the sowing of the plant.


Because of the low concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the main cause of the normal ‘high’ in marijuana – hemp is not psychoactive. The variety of cannabis undergoes production to give rise to over 25,000 products. The main uses of most products cuts across personal care products, linens, food, and rope.

Moreover, the profits of the venture are promising. This is the reason why a flock of farmers continuously embrace the new business across notable regions in the company.

North Carolina

Using North Carolina as a case study, the tobacco industry is deeply rooted in the history of the state’s agricultural sector. For several years, the state produces pounds of tobacco every year. North Carolina was on top of the list of the major producers of tobacco. But the moment people quit smoking, the business took a different turn.

Like many other states, the farmers in North Carolina saw a decline in the value of the tobacco industry. In 2016, the cash receipts of the state showed that tobacco’s value was only 6.3% of farm income. Year after year, there was the ‘law of diminishing returns’ for tobacco. Since most of the farmers would complain, there was a last resort – hemp!


For several decades, hemp had strict controls because of the rising anti-drug sentiment. Without government permit, growing the plant was illegal because many people confused the plant for marijuana. Fortunately, the creation of the industrial hemp research pilot programs by the agriculture departments in 2014 supported the reopening of production opportunities. In Kentucky, the cultivation of only 33 acres of hemp plant occurred. In 2015, the seedlings were 922 acres. One year later, the agriculture department reported that 2,350 acres were cultivated.

However, these are minute amounts compared to the 72,900 acres of tobacco by Kentucky farmers. Albeit Hay, the number one crop in Kentucky accounts for 2.37 million acres in the state, Kentucky still ranks as one of the best producers of hemp by producing 25% of the 9,650 hemp acres grown.

In North Carolina, hemp farming is very interesting. Tobacco is a crop the state has been sued to even right before the Civil War; and its losing value. What is next on the table? The new hemp industry, laid out by the government, may be worth the risk. Even though it is hard to let go of the past, North Carolina is doing great in the hemp production department.

One of the greatest investments so far is change. By using the old greenhouses and drying barns of tobacco, farmers are generating new receipts for the hemp plant. And about the transitioning, farmers across the state are finding it exceptionally easy to transition to hemp production. Prospects suggest that hemp production will supersede that of tobacco in a short period of time.

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