The hemp advocacy group Vote Hemp said that on Monday April 13th, eight leading hemp trade and advocacy organizations sent a joint letter to Small Business Administration (SBA) administrator Jovita Carranza urging her to ensure that in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, farmers are eligible for key Small Business Administration (SBA) programs, especially the Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) program. The letter was sent on behalf of hemp farmers nationwide including more than 17,000 licensed family farmers who grew hemp in 2019.
The eight signatories to the letter are Vote Hemp, U.S. Hemp Roundtable, U.S. Hemp Grower Association, National Industrial Hemp Council, Hemp Industries Association, Midwest Hemp Council, Hemp Feed Coalition and the Nebraska Hemp Industries Association.
According to Vote Hemp, the Hemp Business Journal estimates that sales of hemp products grew to more than $820 million in 2017 and estimates they will grow to $2.6 billion by 2022.
The CARES Act relief bill was passed by Congress on a bi-partisan basis to provide economic support including grants and low interest loans to businesses and individuals affected by the COVID-19 virus. However, much of the funding was distributed to the SBA and farmers historically are not eligible for SBA programs and funding. While some CARES Act funding was allocated to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), there was not indication of when or how that funding might reach farmers and for what purpose it would be provided. Many hemp producers indicated they were struggling without access to loans or support that was going to other businesses. Given the unique nature of this disaster, the coalition felt that it was important that farmers including hemp producers should be able to access the Economic Injury Disaster Loans and other SBA relief programs.
“We are concerned about the economic impact of the COVID-19 virus on farmers and wanted to make sure that hemp producers were not left behind at this critical moment” said Eric Steenstra, President of Vote Hemp. “We urge the SBA and Congress to provide the same relief to hemp farmers that is being offered to other businesses.”