A USDA official said earlier this week that the U.S. hemp industry could have a producer-funded checkoff program coming soon. The Agricultural Marketing Service’s Director of the Specialty Crops Programs’ Promotion and Economics Division spoke at the Hemp Industries Association’s annual conference.
Hemp Industry Daily notes that the director said the hemp industry “clearly has shown interest” in paying fees to promote their product, saying that “the idea here is that a rising tide would lift every boat.” If a checkoff program comes to fruition, hemp would join 21 other crops that have their own checkoffs, including soybeans, cotton, milk, pork, watermelon, and even popcorn. Growers would pay mandatory fees to go into a fund that’s used for research and marketing.
A checkoff would benefit the emerging hemp industry struggling to get out from under marijuana-related misconceptions. A checkoff program would also be seen as an endorsement from USDA, making hemp a legitimate crop with long-term potential.
Thousands of farmers took the plunge into hemp production after the 2018 farm bill legalized production of the plant. That flood of new growers is why some hemp farmers are struggling to find markets for their first post-farm bill harvest. Despite increasing demand for hemp-related products, the rush of new growers appears to have driven down prices.