EU rules change could give hemp subsidies

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An impending change in EU regulations could open the door to alternative subsidies for hemp farmers following the discontinuation of other EU hemp fiber cash-back programs, sources have suggested to HempToday.

A recently finalized amendment to rules governing EU rural development programs allows for the farming of hemp as a “catch crop” — a crop that grows quickly while having a positive impact on soil quality. Catch crops still benefit from EU farm payouts.

Most catch crops mature within 30 days while helping to prevent the escape of minerals from the soil. Farmers often put in such crops — certain kinds of vegetables and grains — between a spring harvest and the planting of some autumn crops. Polish farmers grow white mustard as a subsidy-earning catch crop, for example.

Gaming the EU system?

However, other European hemp experts see the change, most likely spurred by the withering French hemp fiber industry, as simply another strategy to tap into EU funding, and question the basis for the rule change. Hemp, they say, cannot mature sufficiently in 30 days to produce material suitable for processing, and furthermore would produce no seed. The only outcome of such cultivation, these experts suggest, would be that the subsidies would pay for a crop that will eventually be plowed under in the field — basically wasted.

What about CO2 credits?

Nonetheless — and since it’s a fait accompli — the amendment allowing hemp as a catch crop could prove financially beneficial to the owners of hemp fiber varieties in Central Europe, who could, in addition to collecting catch crop subsidies, justify getting EU payouts in the form of carbon credits because hemp cultivation is proven as an effective method for sequestering carbon from the environment. Nobody’s worked that one out yet.

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