Alabama’s hemp industry still taking root 2 years later

Updated: May. 25, 2021 at 6:25 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Alabama’s new hemp industry got off the ground two years ago and since that’s time the number of growers getting in on the action has fluctuated.

Alabama welcomed the hemp industry in 2019 but has seen some farmers getting in while others are getting out.

“We really hadn’t gotten the process that we thought we would get,” said Alabama Agriculture Commissioner Rick Pate, who finds the trend somewhat surprising.

“I’m a little disappointed we haven’t had more people get in the process,” he said.

In 2019, for example, Alabama had 157 licensed hemp growers, but by the end of that year, that number dwindled to 126. A similar movement in 2020; 422 licensed growers at one point but down to 300 by the end of 2020.

So far in 2021 a total of 173 licenses have been awarded to growers, according to the Alabama Department of Agriculture. It’s not clear yet how many are active today.

“You don’t know how much of that is COVID and the uncertainty of what’s gone on,” the commissioner stated.

“Learned a lot of lessons,” said Coleman Beale, who couldn’t agree more. “I think you’ve got to have a hard worker mentality,” the co-owner of BastCore, Inc. explained.

Beale doesn’t grow the actual crop. He contracts out that part of the business. His company extracts the fiber from the stalks, which also produce wood chips.

“We micronize it and it goes into industries such as building products,” he said.

The business is hard and labor intensive.

“You can’t spray on it, so you get weeds in it, a lot of that has to be hoed out because there’s not things you can spray on it,” said Commissioner Pate.

“We’re right there at that inflection point in our business,” Beale assessed.

Still, both men are convinced there is a growing market and believe this is the early stages of the new industry. The sky’s the limit, as they often say, but for now the hemp business is still taking root.

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