Parkersburg, WV August 10, 2016: J. Morgan Leach is the Executive Director of West Virginia Hemp Farmers Cooperative. Leach is 1 of 9 hemp growers participating in a pilot program to grow hemp commercially in West Virginia this year. More recently, Leach has recruited over 40 hemp farmers to grow hemp for next year, but he is looking to recruit more.
“Hemp has the potential to be a burgeoning industry for Wood County and the rest of West Virginia. I urge more farmers to contact me at wvhemp.org.” says Leach.
Industrial hemp, the non-psychoactive cousin of the marijuana plant (aka Cannabis sativa) has a rich and prominent place in U.S. History. In 1938, hemp was named by Popular Science magazine as The Next Billion Dollar Crop because of the nearly 25,000 products that could be derived from the plant. As late as the 1940s, hemp was used extensively by the U.S. military during World War II to make uniforms, canvas, and rope. During those war years, the U.S. government produced a short 1942 film, Hemp for Victory, promoting hemp as a necessary crop to win the war. Now, the U.S. imports more hemp than any other country in the world from countries like Canada and China – the total retail value of hemp products sold in the U.S. in 2015 was about $573 million. Some of those industrial applications that are used today are bioplastics, building materials, insulation, and paper. Some European automobile manufacturers, such as BMW, have started using molded plastic parts from hemp for car interiors.
Leach says, “We need jobs in West Virginia. To be specific, we need to boost our agricultural opportunities and create manufacturing jobs. Hemp will play a big role in that effort.”
Parkersburg is perfectly located for a hemp processing center. It is located along the Ohio River for barge transportation of hemp for not only West Virginia, but Kentucky and whenever Ohio comes online with industrial hemp. The rail and highway access allows the co-op easy distribution of the hemp to industrial centers once it is processed. Neighboring counties like Pleasant, Wirt, Tyler, Roane, Calhoun, Braxton, Doddridge, Tyler, Ritchie and Jackson are ideal locations for local agriculture. The hemp plant provides one of the highest yield prices per acre than nearly every other agricultural crop, so there is great opportunity for farmers to put more money in their collective pockets.
“Counties like Wirt, Pleasant, Roane and Calhoun are classified as being high quality farmland with low development. We have a real opportunity to work together with our neighboring counties to create an industrial hemp processing center in the Parkersburg area. It’s win-win situation for Wood County and its West Virginia neighbors.”
A processing center in Wood County would require investment and cooperation from all civic leaders.
Leach is running for political office in the WV House of Delegates representing Wood County. If elected, Leach will continue to advocate for the industry in order to create jobs and prosperity. “Our future begins today. We can complain about the decline of the coal industry or we can rise like the Phoenix from the ashes stronger and better than before.”
Devastating floods in West Virginia have claimed lives and destroyed homes this past summer. Leach sees how hemp can help. “Some of the world’s best building materials come from industrial hemp. We need to rebuild our infrastructure with products that we make right here in West Virginia.”