Hemp has been praised throughout history for a multitude of its uses, included fiber for cloth and rope, and pulp for clothing. Now, states such as Washington, Oregon, as well as Colorado have passed laws allow for industrial hemp to be produced, although effective uses of the crop are yet to be discovered. What used to be a very halting federal government is now under tons of pressure to let hemp farming continue.
There are multiple interesting stats on land kept out of production through government subsidy, agrarians paid not to farm anything, as well as government-owned land not being used. Let’s take a look at just how much farmland could potentially be used for the production of cellulosic ethanol. According to Lubowsku, Claassen, and Roberts, the Conservative Reserve Program (CRP) paid farmers to keep a land almost as large as Iowa unfarmed, which cost $1.7 billion to United States taxpayers.
Just as bad, from an economic point of view, is the $6 billion yearly subsidy the USDA pays to lower the cost of corn. The subsidy, which since 2011 has been given out all over to support biofuels, has created situations where farmers wish to produce ethanol from a less productive source at the cost of all food crop production. All this does is leads to world food prices increasing, hunger increasing, and all at the expense of taxpayers.
By learning from history, it becomes evident that producing ethanol from hemp can help solve the same problems today that Henry Ford tried to fix in the 1930s. Hemp can be grown in soil that is not very applicable to food crops, unlike corn. Also, it has deep roots that help retain soil while simultaneously improving the soil.
“Industrial hemp may provide an excellent rotation crop for traditional crops to avoid outbreaks of insect and disease problems or to suppress weeds,” the USDA says. “Hemp rebuilds and conditions soils by replacing organic matter and providing aeration through its extensive root system.”
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