The Hemp Alliance of Tennessee is leading a study on the feasibility of the production of hemp fiber in the state.
The organization, comprised of hemp-industry colleagues who support, educate, and collaborate for a successful industry, partnered with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture to fund the research that will be conducted by the University of Tennessee.
The study will include an assessment of the feasibility of hemp fiber production for the Tennessee automobile industry as well as an overall assessment of hemp fiber for the development of the Tennessee economy. The research will take place from now through year’s end.
“We are proud to work with the TDA and the research team at the University of Tennessee to explore the potential hemp has to benefit our state’s economy,” said Frederick Cawthon, President of HAT.
“Our organization and its members are invested in realizing the potential of this plant, and our hope is that this study will prompt significant industry investment in Tennessee hemp and its diverse applications.”
The feasibility analysis will include developing a hemp fiber crop production budget for Tennessee farmers and an analysis regarding the costs, revenue, and profits of processing hemp fiber in Tennessee including transportation and supply chain logistics. The broad outlook portion of the study will assess the likelihood for successful Tennessee-based production and processing for the various major uses of hemp fiber.
“We are an agricultural state, and we are proud to be a hemp-producing state,” Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Hatcher, D.V.M. said. “This plant has numerous applications, and we believe fiber has potential to grow Tennessee’s industrial economy. We support this work led by the Hemp Alliance of Tennessee and look forward to reviewing the research conducted by the University of Tennessee to assess the potential scale of that growth.”
Hemp has been recognized as a valuable crop to support Tennessee’s agricultural and industrial economy. Tennessee was among the first states to create a hemp program under the 2014 Farm Bill allowing pilot programs for industrial hemp cultivation.
In 2015, the state had 49 producers licensed to grow 660 acres. In 2019, after the 2018 Farm Bill lifted the controlled substance designation of industrial hemp, the number of producers peaked at 3,957 licensed to grow 51,000 acres. As of May 2022, there are now only 1,041 producers of industrial hemp licensed to grow 5,682 acres. The shift in recent years illustrated the potential for scale and interest from the state’s farmers and cultivation experts.
“After the 2018 Farm Bill was passed, there was a gold rush of growers wanting to enter the emerging market for consumable hemp products,” said Frederick Cawthon. “Tennessee is capable of becoming a leader in this industry if we engage our innovators and the industries that can benefit from the plant – and our legislature continues to help make the right investments in the plant’s myriad applications.”
According to the USDA, the value of hemp production in the United States totaled $824 million in 2021. Industry analysts estimated the global industrial hemp market size at USD 4.13 billion in 2021 and is expect it to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.8% from 2022 to 2030.
Industrial hemp is grown for its seeds, fiber, shivs, flower, and oil. The applications for industrial hemp are varied including textiles, personal care, food and beverages, animal care, paper, automotive, construction materials, furniture, and more.
Formed in 2020, HAT aims to fortify Tennessee’s network of hemp industry players. The trade association is led by a business-minded board of directors who represent a diverse cross-section of hemp interests that operate in Tennessee and serve states across the country. The group is dedicated to increasing industry momentum and aligning industry professionals around a common understanding and guidelines for growing, processing, selling and consuming quality hemp and hemp products.
The organization prioritizes sustainable, eco-friendly agriculture and seeks collaboration regionally with the United States and Tennessee Departments of Agriculture, farmers, industry partners, elected officials, and law enforcement to continue building a safe, ethical, and long-lasting hemp economy.