How Will COVID-19 Affect Hemp and Cannabis Farmers in 2020?

The COVID-19 pandemic posses special challenges for everyone, especially farmers. What started in the cities on both coasts will infect the farm belt too and when it does it will present unique challenges.

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Farmers live in rural areas in sparsely populated communities. With fewer people around them, social distancing should be easy, right? Yes but when someone gets infected they can infect a relatively small number of people which make up a large portion of the local population. Small farm communities have limited access to medical care. There are too few doctors in rural areas and the hospitals are not only small but they lack the sophisticated equipment needed to handle the current pandemic.

The last thing farmers want is people migrating from cities to the perceived safety of small towns. But farmers are connected to their vendors and customers like any other industry. They depend on trucks, trains, barges and other modes of transportation, all of which represent carriers for the virus.

What about hemp and cannabis farmers? While unaffected by the trade wars and tariffs associated with conventional crops like corn and soybeans, they too face unique challenges during the coronavirus pandemic. For example, anyone dependent upon temporary farm labor is vulnerable. Without widespread and affordable testing to identify uninfected laborers who can farmers hire? If you need help at harvest but the labor pool is smaller you should adjust your crop size to reflect the extra labor needed to harvest hemp or cannabis.

Until now testing for mold wasn’t mandatory. It’s too early to tell if COVID-19 testing will be available for crops as well as people. It’s an issue that needs to be addressed for all agricultural crops, especially food. One can only hope that the virus won’t live on plant material. Failure to properly disinfect a drying or storage facility can ruin an entire year’s harvest.

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I don’t have any easy answers. My advice is to isolate your farm as much as possible. Focus on staying healthy. If you’re confident no one in your immediate circle has coronavirus keep it that way. Social distancing is as important for those in the country as it is for city dwellers. Once you have a group you trust, expand your circle slowly and deliberately.

If you plan on growing cannabis or hemp this year take care to isolate it too. Use as few people as possible to handle the harvest. No outsiders, no farm tours. Take your staff’s temperatures every day and enforce strict hand washing procedures. 

2020 is a special year for everyone everywhere. I’m a hemp farmer myself. With proper planning and vigilance hemp and cannabis farmers across the country will pull it off this year.

About the Author

Jerry Whiting is the President & Co-founder of LeBlanc CNE, Inc. He is a monthly columnist on hemp for NW Leaf. Jerry has been a speaker and panelist at several major events such as CannaCon, Hempfest, Bellingham Budfest, and Hemp & Health Expo (Pasco). He’s also been a guest on the CannaCon podcast and hosts The LeBlanc CNE Podcast.

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