Tag Archives: economics

Exploring how industrial hemp can benefit the commonwealth

U.S. retail sales of hemp-based products could exceed $300 million annually, according to industry reports.

Starting in the 2016 growing season, Virginia Tech will begin conducting research on a crop that was part of the very fabric of the Jamestown settlement and may once again become a part of the commonwealth’s agricultural portfolio: hemp.

Following a 2015 state law that allows institutions of higher education to grow industrial hemp for research purposes, the university began researching the manner in which the crop can be grown and assessing the economic impact it could have on the commonwealth.

“This is a great opportunity for the university to help farmers develop a new crop that can increase their revenues even further,” said Saied Mostaghimi, director of the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station and associate dean of research and graduate studies for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “This is also a great example of how our researchers work in conjunction with Virginia Cooperative Extension to the benefit of the state.”

As it does with any new crops, the university will test growing conditions at various locations around the state to determine the best ways to plant, fertilize, and harvest hemp. For the first year, all planting will be done on university-owned or -managed land.
Once the critical agronomic factors are determined, the information the scientists glean will be shared with growers through Virginia Cooperative Extension.

At the same time, research will be conducted on potential uses for hemp, which could range from food supplements to biofuels. The crop’s economic impact on the state will also be assessed.

U.S. retail sales of hemp-based products could exceed $300 million annually, according to industry reports.

Most of the 55,700 metric tons of hemp produced around the world comes from China, Russia, and South Korea, so this program provides an opportunity for Virginia to enter a global market.

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Virginia Tech contributes to record agricultural export number

Agricultural and forestry exports have been on the rise in the commonwealth for the last three years and most recently topped out at more than $3.35 billion.

Soybeans, lumber, tobacco, wheat, and pork — all commodities for which Virginia Tech provides crucial research and Extension services — are among the state’s top exports year after year.

That record-breaking dollar figure is built on staples of the export market, but it has also continued to climb because of breakthroughs into prestigious luxury markets, like wine. In a cultural coup, Virginia wine was exported to the United Kingdom for the first time two years ago, a feather in the cap of the state’s winemakers and a testament to the craftsmanship and quality of the commonwealth’s wine industry that is flourishing with the help of research and Extension.

Production of new wheat varieties through science-based research at Virginia Tech has also been a boon for Virginia’s grain exports and its reputation as a grain-producing state. Faculty members in the Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences have focused on the identification, genetic characterization, mapping, and utilization of durable disease-resistant genes to make small-grain production in Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic more profitable.

Agricultural and forestry exports have been on the rise in the commonwealth for the last three years and most recently topped out at more than $3.35 billion.

Forests provide highly valued recreational and environmental resources, and forest-related industries account for 104,000 jobs in the state and $17 billion in exports. Virginia Tech is helping to keep forest products profitable through forest management research that assesses sustainability efforts. Research in the college has shown that more intensive management will dramatically increase forest productivity.

All of these products are celebrated annually at the Governor’s Conference on Agricultural Trade in Richmond. This year, Virginia Tech President Timothy D. Sands told the audience made up of agricultural movers and shakers that the university was there to partner with industry in the challenge of feeding an ever-growing global population.

“Virginia Tech and other land-grant partners, including Virginia State University, are in a great position to be a partner with all of you to take advantage of this opportunity going forward,” he said.

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