In the summer of 2019, hemp farmers Joe Frey and Adrienne Snow saw demand booming for their crop — so much so that the founders of Western States Hemp in Churchill County had 100 acres of the lush green crop sprouting from their farmland.
A lot has changed in two years.
“This year, we have about eight acres,” Frey told the NNBW this month.
Western States Hemp is far from the only farm to dramatically scale back. From 2019 to 2020, the acreage of hemp planted across Nevada fell by nearly 70%, dropping from nearly 5,000 acres to roughly 1,600, according to the Nevada Department of Agriculture (NDA).
Over that one-year span, the number of certified hemp growers in the Silver State fell from 213 to 116. Western States Hemp, for one, has been growing since 2016, when it joined the state’s hemp-farming pilot program.
“We’re one of the only remaining hemp farms that began with the onset of the state’s program,” said Snow, who is Frey’s sister-in-law. “Most of the farms didn’t make it through ‘the hemp recession,’ if you will.”
Joe Frey is cofounder and owner of Western States Hemp in Churchill County. Courtesy photo
The seeds of a downturn were planted in 2018 when the federal farm bill legalized nationwide growth and cultivation of hemp. Until then, the FDA treated hemp in much the same way as its cannabis cousin: a controlled substance. The new farm bill, however, recognized the plant as having just a trace of THC, a compound that is more present in marijuana — and that produces the high associated with it.
The difference is what helped make hemp the crop of choice for cashing in on the surging market of products containing the non-intoxicating compound found in cannabis plants: CBD.
“At that time, with the risk factor removed completely, banking opened up