An Essential Triad of Food, Agriculture, and Climate: How Hemp Plays a Role in all Three

How does climate affect agriculture and the food produced in our nation and why is there a sense of urgency to address the matter?

The leading and crucial topic that nations around the globe are discussing is how to become net-zero. The goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions below 2°C in several years and creating a framework on how to regulate carbon emissions through voluntary and incentivize programs is one solution. An organization such as the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance (FACA) provides farmers, ranchers, forest owners, and environmental conservationists with resources and tools to further advocate for carbon sequestration methods and the exploration of GHG credits. FACA has six area topics to focus on that include: soil health, livestock and dairy, forests and wood products, energy, research, and food loss and waste. With NHA being the first and only non-profit member of the organization that represents hemp, we believe hemp can play a significant role in these topic areas that display alignment with their targeted focuses.

Here are ways hemp can help in those focus areas:

  1. Soil Health
    • Hemp is a bioaccumulator due to its deep taproot system and can absorb toxins from the soil, thus leaving the soil in better health.
    • It can be used as a rotation crop between harvests like corn and soy and promote biodiversity and polyculture.
  2. Livestock
    • Hemp seed and/or hemp seed meal can be used as an animal feed additive for cattle and other livestock. Studies have shown that hens fed a vegetarian diet with 20% hemp seed meal provided the hens with more nutrients and vitamins. The eggs produced from hens fed with a partial hemp seed diet led to higher omega-3 content, 6 grams of protein, and four times the amount of Vitamin D compared to their non-hemp fed hens.
  3. Forest and Wood Products
    • Hemp can relieve the devastation of deforestation by creating and substituting wood and forest products, such as paper products and lumber, from hemp stalks. Hemp stationary products are currently on the market and building materials such as hemp particle board and flooring exist today.
    • Combining hemp biomass, dead lumber, and woody debris from trees to create biochar can mitigate forest fires and possibly prevent wildfires from happening.
  4. Energy
    • Hemp biomass used in pyrolysis kilns can be turned into biofuel and when used in an anaerobic digester, it can be turned into biogas; two types of fuel that can create renewable energy and lower the carbon footprint.
  5. Research
    • Due to the 80-year prohibition of hemp, we lost 80 years of floral and industrial hemp research. Because hemp is multi-faceted, hemp research can be used in many parts of the value chain. From medicinal to nutritional to industrial, all three sectors can benefit from peer-reviewed research studies.
  6. Food Loss and Waste
    • Hemp seed oil that has not met the food and safety standard for human consumption can be used in other products, such as wood finish in paints.

Ménages à trois

The delicate dance between climate, agriculture, and food has been disrupted because of the erratic and unpredictable pattern of our climate and weather. Soil health is declining, and desertification has expanded in the US and around the globe. Industrial farming practices must change to preserve our soil and land. Commercial fertilizers and chemicals should be phased out and start incorporating better practices, such as regenerative farming. Soil can no longer breathe and house the microorganisms needed to grow our food and feed livestock. With our land slowly turning into dirt that in turn affects the water cycle leading to droughts and floods. At the current rate of rising temperatures, we must do more than pledge to do better but make it actionable today. If we don’t tackle climate change and meet our goals of achieving net-zero in several years, we will no longer be treading in water, but drowning instead.

Policymakers and government agencies must make combatting climate change a priority. Educating farmers, ranchers, forest owners, and small to large enterprises on the importance of carbon sequestration is a start. Technical assistance must be available to guide those in the right direction and funding for programs dedicated to carbon storage and sequestration should be on top of the list. Supporting organizations such as the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance is one way to be actionable and understanding and implementing carbon emission tracking should be the first step.

Let’s combat climate change, collectively.

Anna Chanthavongseng of National Hemp Association