Security becoming a concern for hemp farmers

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For farmers, hemp can yield big profits.  

The plants each cost about $5, but come harvest time, an acre of the hemp can yield anywhere from $50,000 to 150,000 dollars. 

It’s big money that’s becoming a growing concern to protect. 

After tireless days and nights working on his hemp field in Gallatin, farmer Joe Kirkpatrick said thieves stole thousands of dollars of his hard-earned hemp. 

“They came in over there, like in the middle, clipped down the barbed wire,” he said. “They had come in, sawed down 25 plants. They loaded up and drove off.” 

Kirkpatrick said it’s been tough. 

“It’s traumatic to have your property stolen from, especially something that you have worked on for months to create,” he said. 

Its frustration shared by Cheatham County farmer Bryan Nicholson, who’s also a victim of hemp theft. 

“Disappointment, a little bit of hatred towards the situation,” said Nicholson. 

Farmers said theft will be an even bigger concern this growing season with farming licenses in Tennessee soaring from 266 in 2018 to more than 2,900 in 2019. 

“There’s more opportunity now that there are more farms for theft,” said Alex Huffstutter, owner of Riverbend Farms. 

Huffstuffer projects a potential of making $350,000 on his hemp fields in Ashland City – big money and equipment he and his business partner Andrew Bubis are trying to protect. 

“We have about a thousand dollars in pumps,” said Bubis. “At any time we have $200 of lawn equipment.” 

“We have about three deer cams hidden around the property. We’ll be upgrading security eventually,” said Huffstuffer. “Beyond that, floodlights, we have the ‘no trespassing sign.'” 

Come harvest time around September, these measures will become crucial. 

“That’s when the security problem begins, when they’re in full flower,” said Kirkpatrick.  

Kirkpatrick said that’s when thieves can mistake the hemp for marijuana. 

“Around that five weeks where we’re getting close to harvest, we might hire somebody to just stay out here,” said Huffstuffer. 

Kirkpatrick said he plans to do the same with armed guards, alongside motion detectors that turn on lights. 

“Anything that you can do that would set off an alarm that would scare the people, the thief, that would probably be the way to go,” said Kirkpatrick. 

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA), the regulatory body over the state’s hemp program, no longer requires farmers to implement security measures – meaning the onus lies on the farmer. 

“We still suggest they use things like fences or signs or camera, maybe putting their growing area further from road to be safe,” said Will Freeman, Spokesperson for the TDA. 

“There’s a lot of money on the line so I’d say theft will always be a concern,” said Huffstuffer. “Hopefully it doesn’t happen to us.” 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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