Las Vegas, NV, Feb. 15, 2022 Hemp, Nature’s “wonder crop” is in the spotlight again during the USDA Secretary’s recent tour of Lincoln University’s Dickinson Research Facility. reports today that hemp’s role in sustainable agriculture has garnered the attention of USDA Secretary, Tom Vilsack, as he recently announced that $1 billion in grants will be offered by the federal government to support climate-friendly farming when he toured the facility that studies agriculture.
According to the news source, grants under this program are intended to “engage agriculture, forestry and rural communities in the nation’s fight against climate change” and bolster sustainable agriculture.
What’s more climate-friendly than hemp? Environmentalists believe this “wonder crop” has the potential to make huge strides in the regenerative agriculture movement. Let’s take a look at why they believe that and how industrial hemp farming projects could see some of that $1 billion in grant money. First, hemp can improve soil health. It can be cultivated in almost any environment across the country regardless of the climate and generate high yields with a short 120-day harvest cycle (ideal for crop rotation).
“As a cover crop, hemp restores degraded soil by blocking out the room for weeds – reducing the need for synthetic herbicides and adding diversity to crop rotations.” After harvest, hemp leaves behind biomass that can be “up-cycled into added-value products or returned to the soil, feeding essential nutrients back into the ground.”
Second, hemp supports bioremediation.
Bioremediation is when you use living things to heal and cleanse soil after years of toxic build-up. Hemp has a deep root structure and guards against weeds, naturally preparing the soil for rotation. One can liken hemp’s root structure to a vacuum cleaner – accumulating heavy metals and other toxins from the soil before it enters surrounding groundwater.
Third, hemp grows faster than trees and can “sequester large quantities of carbon dioxide back into the ground.”
Hemp is “a zero-carbon energy source with applications in biofuel.” In fact, scientists estimate that “for every ton of hemp cultivated, 1.63 tons of CO2 is removed from the atmosphere.” (Source) Overall, hemp, as the industry continues to mature, has the power to “lower the ecological impacts of food, fuel and fiber production, empower small-scale farmers and create jobs in a variety of industries.”
But while we praise this wonder crop, we have to remember a total hemp-based economy doesn’t automatically equate to a greener future. Yes, the industry is maturing but it’s up to the farmers to ensure that it’s grown in a way that heals the land, not destroy it like conventional commodity crops which erodes soil and externalizes pollution.
The Climate 21 Project (the funding program that’s part of a broader initiative) under the Biden administration outlines the steps the USDA can take to encourage farmers, ranchers and landowners to take up practices that scientists believe can help reduce atmospheric carbon. It “taps the expertise of more than 150 experts with high-level government experience to deliver actionable advice for a rapid-start, whole-of-government climate response coordinated by the White House” and accountable to President Biden.
The Hemp Inc Company projects that it may be eligible to receive some of the $1 billion funding must “demonstrate climate-smart production practices, activities and systems on working lands; verify the carbon and greenhouse-gas benefits associated with those practices; and work to develop markets and promote their climate-smart commodities.”
The grants are available to local, county, tribal and state governments, small businesses and for-profit organizations, nonprofits and universities. Applications are being accepted for projects between $5 million to $100 million through April 8th but the deadline for pilot projects up to $250,000 is May 27th.
With the industrial hemp market growing exponentially, resources and contacts are invaluable. The industrial hemp market is expected to reach $12.01 billion by 2028 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.2% from 2021 to 2028, per the most recent study by Grand View Research, Inc.
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