A hailstorm hit Oregon hemp farms and causes potentially millions in losses. Severe thunderstorms and golf ball-sized hail hit Central Oregon fields on August 9th. Deschutes County Farm Bureau estimates 400 to 500 acres of hemp farms between Cline Falls and Tumalo were either damaged or destroyed. The losses could reach up to $25 million. Most of the hemp in that area is dedicated to CBD production and planted with feminized seed which averages $1 per seed. The estimate of damages is based on 500 acres at $50,000 per acre. Many are waiting to see how resilient the plant is and what the actual impact will be.
While there are methods to help farmers salvage their crops, there is little experience with industrial hemp crops. Most farmers are not ready to give up on their crops yet. Many of the plants had already produced flower, but most were knocked off by the hail. The hail sat about 6 inches on top of the strips of black plastic that were put down as weed barriers in some areas. Since the storm, some farmers have applied soluble seaweed with a nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium blend at 8 gallons per acre. They expect to see new growth on the plants and are optimistic, but it will be a few weeks before the extent of the damage can be assessed. The more mature plants will likely survive compared to crops planted in July or August.
Crop insurance is limited and expensive and most farmers don’t take out insurance. Farmers who leveraged their land to plant hemp this year may end up filing for bankruptcy. Many of the hemp farmers were new to agriculture and didn’t foresee the possible risks. They also didn’t purchase crop insurance because they couldn’t justify the cost. However, hemp being the highest value crop in Oregon, the payout is the highest per acre. Many are hoping that their crops recover and can do nothing but wait and cross their fingers.