Re: Ken Root's article "Hemp, hemp, hooray."
Harold Briemeier, professor emeritus, University of Missouri, long has recommended the production of fiber crops here in the U.S. Of these crops, hemp is one of the most useful and practical for many reasons. This country imports considerable hemp and hemp products from countries where it is legally grown.
Hemp is one of the most useful plants known to man. It has been grown in this country since the first settlers came here. The U.S. Constitution was written on hemp paper, and is still white after two centuries. Devoting some of our cropland to hemp would reduce the need for forest products, as well as reducing the surplus of grains.
Some of the advantages of the crop for farmers include: Hemp does well on poor soils and closely planted has a dense root system that hemp prevent soil erosion. It is fast growing, with a dense canopy. Herbicides to control weeds are seldom necessary. Most farmers have the equipment to grow and harvest hemp. The crop is very weather resistant and will not deteriorate from bad weather conditions, as most crops do.
The critics of commercial hemp production point immediately to its similarity to marijuana and the difficulty of distinguishing between the plants. These critics are ignorant or have an agenda of their own to promote. Marijuana cannot be grown in commercial hemp, and the latter crop is easily identified by its thick growth. The very same critics opposed the Conservation Reserve Program, and for pretty much the same reasons. It cut the need for inputs and reduced the grain supply. Agribusiness interests always have pushed for maximum grain production and touted the "export market."
This writer has been on record for many years, with the claim that the export market "will never be allowed to bring fair prices for production agriculture." History has demonstrated this claim time and time again. Any time that the export market threatened to or did raise farm prices was very short lived and generally came at a time when farmers had little to sell. A glance at the import market figures will show anyone--who cares to look--that cheap food for the consumer is a first priority in this country.--Gene Anderson, Sheldon, MO.