The renaissance of industrial hemp in North America: How New Holland supports an evolving industry
28.07.2020 16:35 "Agro Perspectiva" (Kyiv) —
Hemp in the early days
Without doubt, industrial hemp is one of the most versatile and sustainable crops in existence. It can be used for food, fiber and oil, and is found in a wide range of commercial and industrial products. It is also one of the oldest crops to be cultivated by man and has a long history of use across the globe. In the U.S., for example, it can be traced back to colonial times and the Founding Fathers, when it was a key crop used to make everything from clothing and sails, to paper and ropes. Hemp products could be found in all aspects of daily life and the crop itself was used for trade with England. Despite its success, the hemp industry in the U.S. started to decline in the 20th century when legislators restricted and finally banned the growth of cannabis. At the time, the law did not differentiate hemp, which is structurally and chemically different, from other cannabis plants and, as a result, hemp disappeared. The emergence of cheaper, often lower-quality, synthetic fibers also contributed to the rapid decline of the industry.
The return of hemp to the U.S.
Today, China is the world’s largest producer of industrial hemp followed by Canada and France. Worldwide, more than 30 countries allow hemp production. The general outlook for the global hemp industry is positive as the awareness of this versatile crop grows.
With the legalization of industrial hemp in the U.S., hemp is once again a huge opportunity for many farmers. According to the USDA’s Farm Service Agency, acreage expanded rapidly between 2018 and 2019 with 146,065 planted acres in 2019. As the regulatory environment becomes more stable, the U.S. hemp industry is predicted to grow at a steady pace. For farmers hemp could be an alternative or an additional revenue stream.
Nonetheless, there are also challenges given that the crop has not been planted and processed for decades in the U. S. Many farmers are unfamiliar with growing hemp and the market infrastructure is still developing. In addition, there are misconceptions about what hemp is — the most common one claiming that industrial hemp is the same plant as the marijuana plant which is not the case. They are both cannabis plants but industrial hemp has only a low level of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and is, therefore, not considered a controlled substance. Education on those topics is key.
An alliance to move the hemp industry forward
CNH Industrial’s commitment to its customers goes far beyond building equipment. The Company and its brands frequently take the lead to enable its customers to participate in a world of new opportunities.
CNH Industrial’s brand, New Holland Agriculture, aims at moving the hemp industry forward by providing education and thought leadership for anyone who is considering to become part of the hemp industry. Earlier this year, New Holland partnered with the National Hemp Association, the nation’s leading non-partisan hemp advocacy group based in Washington D. C., to accelerate the return of hemp commodity crop onto farmlands across North America, under the banner «Pushing Progress Together.»
The objective of the alliance is to tackle the industry’s biggest challenge: the absence of commercial scale harvesting and decortication equipment matching the demand for the product to the farmers that supply it. In order to begin laying the foundation of an integrated North American hemp supply chain, the alliance calls on other partners — corporations and entities to join a «Hemp Pledge» and commit to purchasing hemp grown and processed in the U.S. by U.S. farmers.
«We see this exclusive partnership as a way to bring the nation’s leading hemp advocates and educators to events where they can respond to the issues of most concern to farmers, manufacturers, processors and the general public,» says Brett Davis, Vice President, New Holland Agriculture, North America. «It too will provide New Holland with the opportunity to hear from our dealer network, our customers and the more than 115,000 farmers who are looking to New Holland to bring forward supply chain solutions.»
Supporting education and research
Education and research remain essential tools to support the successful reintroduction of hemp. Which type of hemp seeds work best in which region? Should your farming operation focus on fiber, grain or production of other commodities? Should you add hemp as a rotational crop? What are best practices for cultivation and harvesting to get the best fiber quality? How can hemp reduce the carbon footprint of your operation? Farmers and entrepreneurs who are starting to work in the hemp industry need to look at a lot of different aspects and rely on research.
Tyler Mills, Head of Specialty Business for New Holland, «An entire industry is being built from the scratch. We’re partnering with university researchers, organizations and farmers to develop the best equipment solutions for planting and harvesting. And we promote the use and processing of domestic hemp to companies in the manufacturing and consumer goods space.»
New Holland has also planted a total of 15 acres of four varieties of industrial hemp for education and testing purposes at its manufacturing site in New Holland, Pennsylvania.
Jon Hundley, Marketing Manager Hay and Forage, and Hemp at New Holland, «The testing field will allow us to learn more about the entire crop cycle from planting to harvesting while capturing important crop and soil data. This is a unique opportunity to be at the forefront of the emerging industrial hemp industry and allows us to bring experts and customers together to discuss best practices, equipment solutions and market developments. Our goal is to provide our customers with access to resources and knowledge.»
Hemp and sustainability
For CNH Industrial and its brands sustainability is deeply ingrained in its day-to-day activities. It extends into all areas of business from employees, to suppliers to customers and local communities. CNH Industrial is committed to a better future and is, therefore, actively involved in protecting the environment and prevent climate change by championing more sustainable agricultural practices and crops.
The seemingly unlimited uses of hemp for commercial and industrial products paired with its sustainable and regenerative character make it truly unique. For farmers, hemp offers multiple benefits: it needs less water than a traditional crop and is more resistant to pests and diseases, which means less or no pesticides, and, what is more, it even returns nutrients to the ground which keeps the farmland healthier for longer. Hemp can also be grown in different climates and different types of soil, and promises high yields even in small places. Almost every part of the plant — the stalk, the leaves and the seeds — can be used for everything from construction products and biofuels to fabrics and food to plastics and paints. There are thousands of products that can be fully or partially made of hemp. The fact that it is biodegradable and can reduce the carbon footprint of an operation makes it attractive for many industries that strive to make a difference when it comes to climate change.
Jon Hundley said, «The ultimate goal for many companies and organizations is to focus on sustainability and having a carbon-neutral footprint. And hemp as one of the most sustainable crops brings us new opportunities to reach this goal and to protect our environment. Some industries, like the automotive industry, are already integrating hemp to some degree into their products. In the future, we will see more of this across many different industries.»
CNH Industrial embraces industrial hemp as a crop that can enable farmers to create a more sustainable operation that can reduce agriculture’s impact on climate change for a better tomorrow.