An Arkansas Department of Agriculture survey found 94 percent of the state’s hemp growers lost money on the crop last year, planting a total of 1,819 acres but harvesting just 883 acres, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports.
Despite the losses, the agency has already issued more hemp cultivation licenses for the upcoming growing season than all of last year. The Agriculture Department has issued 152 cultivation licenses so far this year, up from 125 last year, the report says. Additionally, the agency has issued 39 hemp processor licenses so far – up from 33 last year. The licenses have been issued in 55 of the state’s 75 counties after hemp was grown in 51 of the state’s counties last year.
Arkansas hemp farmers reported capital investments last year of more than $5.8 million, total operating costs of $5.9 million, and sales to processors of nearly $846,000. They reported a total gross income of $702,291, an average of $3,266 per farmer, according to agency figures outlined by the Democrat-Gazette.
Some crops were hampered by rains along with flooding along the Arkansas River; however, 21 percent of licensed cultivators indicated their crops had been stolen by thieves who believed the plants were THC-rich cannabis. Caleb Allen, manager of the state’s hemp program, warned though that the theft figures are “self-reported” and that they couldn’t be independently verified.
Growers who participated in the survey said they were unable to sell 54.6 percent of last year’s crop – or about 108,000 pounds. Only about half of the licensed processors reported buying hemp from in-state growers, paying them about $330,000.
According to U.S. Department of Agriculture data, Arkansas is still operating under its pilot hemp program enacted in 2014. Lawmakers have not yet passed legislation updating the program for federal approval as required under the 2018 farm bill.