Letter from the Editor: Adapting to Challenges Amid COVID-19

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For the hemp industry, COVID-19’s impact has been severe. But we also continue to see growth, potential and optimism.

May 13, 2020

It’s difficult right now to think about much besides COVID-19, whether from a personal, professional, financial or societal perspective. The current pandemic has impacted each of us.

Personal and societal perspectives aside, Hemp Grower and its sister publications Cannabis Business Times and Cannabis Dispensary, like most other businesses, have not been immune to the pandemic’s fallout. In March, we announced our decision to postpone Cannabis Conference 2020 (co-produced by all three publications), originally scheduled for April 21-23 in Las Vegas. Moving an event of its size—which brings thousands of people together from nearly 30 countries—is not something we expected. But we adapted quickly and have fortunately rescheduled the conference for Sept. 1-3. The lessons regarding the importance of nimbleness and backup plans have not been lost on me.

For the hemp industry, COVID-19’s impact has been severe. In a recent Hemp Grower survey, 84% of respondents said they predict revenue or operating capital losses due to the coronavirus pandemic; but this is not the only challenge facing the fledgling U.S. industry.

We are about five months away from the Oct. 31 deadline for states and tribes to either operate under a new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-approved plan or under their pilot programs established under the 2014 Farm Bill. Also, the USDA is reviewing the first round of public comments to its interim final rule (IRF), which establishes hemp program requirements drawn from the 2018 Farm Bill.

Now, we wait to see what changes are made to the IRF. In “The Fragile State of Hemp,” reporter Paul Barbagallo explores what some state ag departments see as the IRF’s most significant issues and hindrances to farmers’ potential for success.

We see ongoing challenges weaving this newly legal plant into the fabric of the U.S., where confusion over regulations and hemp being mistaken for its higher-THC cannabis relative has fueled significant crop and financial losses and lawsuits. We see a supply chain struggling to evolve in a new industry.

But we also continue to see growth, potential and optimism.

The regulatory structure is not yet ideal, and challenges are sizeable, but farmers continue to build an industry from nothing. Nimbleness and backup plans will be the way of the industry at least a bit longer.

And as noted writer, poet and artist Kahlil Gibran once wrote, “Progress lies not in enhancing what is, but in advancing toward what will be.”