Why Livestock Farmers Are Switching to Cannabis


The life of a farmer in modern America has grown to be a difficult way to make a living. In addition to the hardships involved in agriculture, the lives of chicken and other livestock farmers continues to be scrutinized for its cruelty towards animals and negative impacts on the environment and public health.

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At the same time that farming in America has become more difficult in many regards, it has become a goldmine for some livestock farmers who have switched to growing cannabis in states that have legalized marijuana. With the continued growth of recreational cannabis one must wonder if cannabis may just have the momentum to shift the trajectory of American farming from mammals to marijuana.

One fact is certain: cannabis is a real cash crop, and it keeps on growing. In fact, some strategists predict that cannabis taxes alone may generate $12 billion for U.S. states by 2030, according to Fortune. While other businesses tanked, marijuana sales grew. 

RELATED: What Keeps New York Hemp Farmers Up at Night

More profit in cannabis

Marijuana growing licenses are highly competitive in states where it is legal to grow, and some of the best growing land in these states is becoming coveted similarly to that of a wine region. Some of this land has become so costly that farmers have stopped raising animals in these lands altogether. The profits from livestock on this land can be a fraction of the earning potential of marijuana’s.

One Oregon livestock producer, Angela Boudro, told Reuters about the nearly impossible feat it is to compete with cannabis. “We had looked at purchasing a piece of ground, and the price that the hemp growers were willing to pay was phenomenally higher than we could ever pay with livestock,” she said. 

Livestock producers still exist in all states with legalized weed, but the decision to raise cattle on land that can be used to grow recreational marijuana is becoming more and more difficult to justify.

Some animal rights organizations noticed this shift in profitability going from livestock to plants. Some such organizations have already created ways to assist and encourage farmers into this “vegetarian” and profitable business transition. One of these organizations is the Transformation Project, launched by Mercy for Animals (MFA). The transformation project’s mission is “to help farmers transition their industrial animal-agriculture operations to plant-focused farms raising crops for human consumption.”

“We decided to create a platform where we would have this conversation about our current factory farm system and how to get the people who want out involved in the plant-based space, whether it’s hemp or even solar and wind energy,” MFA President Leah Garcés told Civil Eats

RELATED: Here’s How Climate Change Will Affect the Global Cannabis Industry

The payoffs

Organizations like these can be instrumental for farmers looking to make the switch. The influence and investors provided by groups like the Transformation Project can make the switch from chicken and livestock to cannabis and other farming possible for small-time farmers. This change, after all, comes with a significant initial investment.

This investment in cannabis, however, has shown great payoff for some former-livestock farmers already.

“I’ve got 1,500 acres of normal row crops and 400 head of cattle,” J.F. Foster, a livestock farmer who has begun the switch to cannabis, told Farm Journal. “If it was possible I’d turn my entire operation over to some type of cannabis production today. Every acreToday.”


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