Is Hemp the New Soybean?

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CBD is the hemp flavor of the hour, getting the most attention because it’s where many farmers have made money on hemp today. But Marshall Custer, an attorney specializing in cannabis at Husch Blackwell Law Firm, says he sees the marketplace poised for change. Custer addressed the Agricultural Business Council of Kansas City on Thursday, Jan. 16, about the expanding hemp marketplace. 

“In the future, as our vast agricultural infrastructure ramps up and starts to pivot towards handling industrial hemp crops, it will shift more towards your traditional and commodity products—oil, seed and use in bioplastics, grain, feed and textiles—its traditional uses,” he says. “I’ve often heard people thinking longer term about this industry: if soybean can do it, hemp can possibly do it better and cheaper.” 

Does this mean hemp will replace soybeans? 

“I don’t think hemp is going to take soybeans out of the market, but I think it will be a very valuable alternative for your large row crop farmer once we get the infrastructure in place to handle and produce the commodity products that can be made from that plant,” Custer says. “It will be another alternative for farmers to put in the field.”

That’s why the market potential is huge, Custer says. He encourages agricultural professionals to think of hemp like corn or soybeans because of its potential as a commodity crop. 

Custer identifies two barriers farmers must overcome to reach hemp’s full potential. First, farmers must need to manage the steep learning curve of this crop. The farmer needs to know where to source the right seed and how to grow and harvest the crop. Second, the farmer must understand the regulatory, finance and insurance issues related to the crop. This encompasses everything from where you can grow the crop to how it’s going to be tested to make sure it falls below the legal limit of 0.3% THC to qualify as industrial hemp.

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