Douglas hemp production grinds to a halt

A tractor works on a hemp field at Hungry Mother Organics in 2019 when there were 10 hemp growers certified in Douglas County. This year there were zero.

A tractor works on a hemp field at Hungry Mother Organics in 2019 when there were 10 hemp growers certified in Douglas County. This year there were zero.

Carson Valley may be Nevada’s garden spot, but one agricultural initiative that seemed like it was exploding just four years ago has all but disappeared.

In 2019, Douglas County was home to 10 certified hemp growers, but as of Sept. 21, there are precisely zero.

That happened to be the date Nevada Cooperative Extension conducted a virtual open meeting on the Nevada Regional Hemp Project.

Pioneer Douglas grower Mark O’Farrell said he felt that the state was placing limits that discouraged people from the field.

O’Farrell had a certification for Sierra Nevada Hemp Co. over the past four years.

“I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel,” he told the gathering that included presenters from the state and university. “Something has to give if we’re going to convince anyone to go back into hemp. I opted out this year because the industry is so abysmal.”

Growing hemp became legal in Nevada in 2016. That was the same year a grower purchased property along the Carson River to set up shop.

In 2019, Nevada was enjoying a hemp boom, with 4,917 acres planted and 213 growers.

That number dropped to 1,625 acres in 2020 and plummeted to only 13.53 acres planted in 2022 with only 26 certified growers statewide as of last month..

O’Farrell said that a combination of heavy regulation and an inability to advertise hemp online is weighing the industry down.

“(Regulators) have taken the approach that they can’t stop you from making hemp, but they’ll do everything we can to make it difficult. Under the regulatory environment, you’re treated like a criminal.”

He said advertising on social media is very nearly impossible.

“Even after we jump through all the hoops and when we finally posted our first product, we were flagged. There are hundreds of hemp products advertised that are a scam.”

Hemp growers are subject to testing to determine that their product is below the .36 percent THC maximum.

O’Farrell pointed out that if a crop tests above the limit, destruction is the only option, which means the loss of an entire growing season.

Western States Hemp co-founder Adrienne Snow of Fallon said Google didn’t allow advertising of CBD or hemp products until this year, though only for topical products, not gummies.

She said she posted a photo that got her banned from using her account to boost posts of any kind.

Andrey Blondfield of the Nevada Department of Agriculture said the state takes random clippings to test to create a composite sample from the results.

Growers can request a retest, but if that fails, too the crop has to be destroyed.

Research and planning for the hemp industry is underway by the University of Nevada, Reno’s College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources.

Nevada and other Western states are working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Western States Hemp farm in Fallon has been part of the Hemp Route 97 project for two years. The goal of the project is to study the “feasibility of establishing sustainable supply chains for bio-based manufacturing to help hemp reach its potential in the rural Western U.S. economic landscape.”

A cooperative program with the University, the Nevada Regional Hemp Project solely includes Western States Hemp at the moment, but it will include other hemp industry members as it continues, said Western States Hemp co-founder Joe Frey.

“We want to bring people with an interest in the hemp industry together and focus mainly on what producers are successfully doing and also what challenges they are trying to meet,” Frey said.

Frey said that hemp is viable as a rotational crop for Northern Nevada producers.

“It helps build soil health when grown properly,” he said. “The limitation right now is that there isn’t a strong market to sell hemp products in the state. So, that is just one of the discussions we’ll have, trying to find out where and how we can develop outlets for hemp.”

Mineral County Extension Educator Staci Emm said that growers focusing on producing CBD don’t need a lot of land and space.

“If you’re looking at industrial hemp production, that’s a whole other ballgame,” she said. “If you’re looking at hemp production, you’d better be part of a coalition that’s growing hemp. We need to develop that stakeholder base.”

Reinvigorating Northern Nevada’s hemp industry is going to require answering a lot of questions, according to University of Nevada, Reno Extension Hemp Crop Specialist Catelyn Bridges.

“We just want to make sure that our researchers are asking questions that are actually applicable to people who are working with hemp,” Bridges said. “We want to be ready with documentation for them about what works best in certain environments.”


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