LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Industrial hemp is a fast-growing business, including here in our area. A summit in Danville on Monday drew about 400 people from 25 states to talk about the business side of hemp.
Jay Barker buys and processes locally-grown hemp in Danville.
“It’s a really hot, hot commodity right now,” he said. “You’ve got a lot of local growers here who have been beat down pretty bad because of the tobacco industry decline, and they see a good opportunity here.”
He says it’s easy for farmers to switch from tobacco to hemp, because the crops have similar needs.
“A lot of the same soil, a lot of the same weather, all of the same practices, same labor, same equipment, same barns, same curing structures, all of it works. It’s very compatible.”
The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research organized the hemp summit. They believe Danville has a bright future in the hemp industry.
“Because of our research ability and our testing lab,” said Mark Gignac, the Institute’s Executive Director, “we have one of the best-equipped testing labs I would say in the southeast. People that are interested in locating in this area or even Virginia are going to be drawn to this region.”
One major issue is banking. Melissa Marsal works for a bank that serves the hemp industry.
“I would say 80% of my customers were kicked out of their current financial institution,” she said.
She said a lot of banks have not written hemp compliance programs, and they will refuse to allow hemp-related businesses to open accounts or will drop the business if it goes into hemp.
“It’s a legal crop,” she said, “but because it once was not, and I think the stigma attached to it in the entire cannabis space, it is making it where banks don’t feel like it’s a risk they want to take, and it’s just a lack of education.”