Let's Bring Back Hemp For Military Application
In 1942, The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 was temporarily lifted so that United States farmers could grow hemp for fiber to support war efforts during World War II. Nearly 80 years later, there is reason to believe that hemp fiber production for military application will become once again a viable business niche for farmers.
The government encouraged and supported hemp fiber production in 1942 for reasons of supply shortage. No longer could the United States import the plant from overseas, so the government turned to local farmers to grow. Today, there are no shortage issues, but the United States has become so focused on CBD that fiber has been practically ignored by the new hemp farmer.
As more farmers move on from the over-saturated CBD market, they’ll look to turn their focus to industrial application. Although there are questions surrounding the current infrastructure (or lack thereof) within the US to process industrial hemp at scale, those concerns will be quieted in the next few years. In a country of opportunists, someone sooner than later will invest into bridging the gap between industrial hemp production and industrial hemp processing.
When that day comes, why not industrial hemp for military use? There are currently discussions in place between the U.S. military and the University of Wisconsin to replace polyester and polymer in Army vehicles. Though WWII production focused on hemp rope, cloth, and cordage, there is still a precedent in place for an advantageous relationship between the military and hemp farmers.
Researchers from University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point are working toward creating a hemp textile to be tested by the military. Their hope is to produce seat belts, seat covers and uniforms from a material that is more durable and safer than polyester.
Though not a done deal, there are some encouraging signs that hemp for military use could begin production in the coming years. For starters, there are two state lawmakers in Wisconsin pushing for a $250,000 research grant specifically for the military application. Behind them is a private sector with the financial means and interest to support the cause.
There are also recent statements from President Trump in which he claimed that he’ll be putting an increased enforcement on more U.S. based manufacturing (known as the Buy American Act).
Because these type of decisions take time, it should not be expected for farmers to jump into growing hemp fiber for a niche military market and immediately find buyers. However, farmers can start to do their homework on these type of applications that will be sprouting up over the next few years. It’s best to follow the story lines, try to connect with those leading the charge, and start to plan what growing industrial hemp may look like from an operations point of view.
This is just the beginning. With hemp said to have over 25,000 applications, farmers should expect, anticipate, embrace and plan for future niche market opportunities beyond military use to build a sustainable businesses.