cannabis plant
Cannabis plant (Seth Michael / Shutterstock)

By Geoffrey Taylor, MA, Hemp Contributor, Valley Ag Voice

As the agriculture industry adjusts to one of the hottest new commodities in decades, hemp has taken center stage at this year’s 2021 World Ag Expo online. Though the event is typically held in-person at the International Agri-Center located a short drive away in Tulare, California, this year’s expo takes a distinctly different format and offers visitors the opportunity to engage with a large volume of content focused specifically on the hemp industry providing a breadth of information related to regulations, production, marketing/sales and other important considerations for those actively growing hemp or those seeking to enter the marketplace.

“For attendees of the World Ag Expo, getting accurate information on this new crop is vital so that farmers can make good decisions. There is much to understand about this crop and the processing for profit,” said Wayne Richman, President and Founder of the California Hemp Association and a presenter at this year’s World Ag Expo. “Federal regulations have just been finalized but may get another look under the Biden administration.”

Richman founded the California Hemp Association, a hemp industry advocacy and trade association that works to advocate for hemp farmers, breeders, processors, builders, manufacturers and resellers within the state of California and the organization is a member organization of the National Hemp Association and the United States Hemp Building Association.

Richman continued by stating, “Federal regulations right now are allowing for disposal of “hot” hemp, that which is over .03% THC while California has interpreted it as the destruction of a “hot” crop. California Department of Food and Agriculture and the Industrial Hemp Advisory Board (IHAB) has shown little to no leadership at the state level.”

With three day’s worth of online seminars spanning February 9-11, 2021, and each seminar focusing on a topic relevant to the new or seasoned hemp farmer, the hemp aspect of the World Ag Expo addressed many different areas of an increasingly popular and versatile industry across the United States and globally.

Hemp as a commodity holds numerous different applications ranging from cannabinoid extraction and processing to grain to textiles, building materials and numerous other nutraceutical and industrial applications that apply differently to the specific type or cultivar of hemp being produced. Since Federal regulations are ever-shifting and California regulations have stifled many hemp growers in the state, events like this are needed to help spread the facts.

Experts with diverse backgrounds in the hemp industry are allowing for attendees to immerse themselves in topics that range from sales and marketing of hemp fiber products, grain products and cannabinoid products, to developing a more robust hemp infrastructure in the United States to compete with other hemp producers across the globe. Hemp was arguably the largest focus of this year’s World Ag Expo and contributed heavily to the range of content being provided to virtual attendees from across the globe.

“California’s hemp program is an embarrassment and we are far behind the rest of the country,” said Richman. “We don’t have a research program in this state, the (CDFA/IHAB) program manager has no farming or business background and has caused the program to be two million dollars in debt with little to show other than new overpaid employees.”

Hemp is becoming an increasingly popular crop for farmers and growers seeking to diversify their crop rotations. This year’s World Ag Expo builds heavily upon the introduction of hemp to last year’s expo and expands the presence of hemp and hemp farming, both for industrial use and for cannabinoid production, in hopes of empowering producers to take the next steps toward producing world-class hemp right here in California.

“This year’s World Ag Expo had a large focus on hemp because it’s an increasingly popular crop for producers across the country, and especially locally, but many farmers are having a difficult time becoming fully acquainted with how to properly enter the hemp space in a profitable way,” said Travis Copeland of Unico Ag Services “Having access to experts with diverse knowledge in their respective areas of the hemp space is helpful, particularly in a digital event like this year’s Expo, but it’s no replacement for being in-person and being able to interact with hemp industry experts in a meaningful way.”

In finding ways to increase demand for hemp-derived or hemp-based products in all categories from animal feed to nutraceutical CBD, or cannabidiol, to hemp seed and breeding new proprietary cultivars and strains of hemp plants, and everything in between, World Ag Expo 2021 virtual attendees were treated to an experience that shed light on the variety of ways hemp can be utilized as a commodity and ways to increase growth, plan properly for seed-to-sale marketing, expand markets for new and interesting hemp derivatives and work to expand the footprint of how hemp is used both domestically and globally.

Hemp continues to be a contentious but highly valued crop to producers across the country and the emphasis placed on this crop at the 2021 World Ag Expo was a testament to the impact that this new and exciting crop is bringing to the agricultural community not only here in California, but across the country and internationally. As industry operators begin to find their flow in creating a robust hemp infrastructure in California and the United States, events like the World Ag Expo will continue to serve a major role in educating and empowering hemp industry operators across the board.