Farmers rushed into hemp. Now they face a glut

Prices for the crops are falling, and some growers are struggling to unload their product

Joel Haynes is looking to sell the bales of hemp he has grown this season, but he says buyers are trying to underpay sellers.
/Andrea Morales for the Wall Street Journal

By Arian Campo-Flores and Cameron McWhirter | The Wall Street Journal

Tony Ockerman, a fourth-generation farmer hoping to diversify his crops by adding hemp, said his first harvest this year turned out well after plenty of trial and error. But he is struggling in one key respect: finding buyers.

Hoping to capitalize on surging demand for cannabidiol, or CBD—a derivative of hemp or marijuana that proponents say has numerous medical benefits—Mr. Ockerman invested about $100,000 to grow 30 acres of the plant. Unlike some farmers who secured contracts with buyers ahead of the growing season, he rolled the dice.

“We’re just free-birding it, raising it and seeing what happens,” said Mr. Ockerman, 61 years old, who also grows hay and tobacco on an additional 520 acres in Chaplin, Ky., southeast of Louisville. “There’s just a lot of hemp out there. It’s overproduced.

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December 2019