Tennessee Hemp Alliance Launches Hemp Study With UT

An organization focused on fortifying the Tennessee hemp industry operator network is launching a study on hemp fiber production in the state.

The Hemp Alliance of Tennessee (HAT) announced the start of the study on Wednesday.

HAT says it partnered with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture to fund the research, which the University of Tennessee (UT) will conduct through the end of the year.

Hemp Program in Tennessee

Tennessee first started its hemp program under the 2014 Farm Bill, which permitted states to launch hemp cultivation pilot programs.

There were 49 hemp producers growing hemp on 660 acres in Tennessee in 2015.

The number of licensed growers peaked at 3,957 (51,000 acres) in 2019 after the 2018 Farm Bill’s passage, but there are now only 1,041 producers growing on 5,682 acres.

HAT says the change in recent years illustrates the potential interest and production scale from Tennessee’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,” says HAT President 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 (sic).”

According to HAT, the new study will, in part, examine whether hemp fiber production for the Tennessee auto industry is feasible and how hemp fiber might aid in the state’s economic development.

Cawthon says the company is proud to study hemp’s potential economic benefits for Tennessee with TDA and the UT research team.

“Our organization and its members are invested in realizing the potential of this plant,” says Cawthon. “And our hope is that this study will promp significant industry investment in Tennessee hemp and its divers applications.”

Research for Hemp’s Future

HAT says the feasibility analysis will include creating a hemp fiber crop production budget for Tennessee growers and analyzing costs, revenue, fiber processing profits, transportation, and supply chain logistics.

According to HAT, the study’s broad outlook section will focus on the likelihood of Tennessee-based hemp fiber production and processing succeeding.

HAT says hemp has gained recognition as a valuable crop to support Tennessee’s agricultural and industrial economy.

“We are an agricultural state, and we are proud to be a hemp-producing state,” says Agricultural Commissioner Charlie Hatcher, D.V.M. “This plant has numerous applications, and we believe fiber has potential to grow Tennessee’s industrial economy. We support this work led by Hemp Alliance of Tennessee and look forward to reviewing the research conducted by the University of Tennessee to asses the potential scale of that growth.”

The United States Department of Agriculture says domestic hemp production value reached $82 million in 2021, and the global industrial hemp market size was $4.13 billion.

According to HAT, estimates place the market’s compound annual growth rate (CAGR) at 16.8 percent from 2022 to 2030.