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U.S. 2021 industrial hemp crop worth $824 million, USDA says

CHICAGO, Feb 17 (Reuters) - U.S. farmers produced $824 million worth of industrial hemp in 2021, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said in a new survey-based report on Thursday, maintaining its status as a niche crop despite growing interest in some hemp products.

Some farmers looked at growing more hemp when commodity crop prices were low during a grain glut and a trade war with China, but prices of soybeans, corn and wheat soared last year as global supplies tightened during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Growers planted 54,152 acres (21,915 hectares) of hemp in fields last year and harvested 33,480 acres. The top states by area were Colorado, which seeded 10,100 acres and harvested 3,100 acres, and Montana, with 7,900 planted acres and 4,500 harvested acres.

By contrast, U.S. farmers planted corn on 93.4 million acres last year.

Hemp was also grown under protection, such as a greenhouse or tunnel, on 15.590 million square feet, with California the top state at 3.9 million square feet, the USDA said.

Unlike marijuana, industrial hemp doesn't contain enough of the psychoactive chemical THC to give users a high.

The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration's list of controlled substances and put it under the oversight of the USDA.

The highest-value use category for the 2021 outdoor hemp crop was "floral hemp," used for the extraction of essential oils from plant resin, such as cannabidiol (CBD), the USDA said, estimating a production value of $623 million.

The value of 2021 hemp grown for seed totaled $41.5 million, while hemp for fiber was valued at $41.4 million and hemp for grain at $5.99 million.

For crops grown under protection, the floral hemp crop was valued at $64.4 million, while hemp used for transplants and clones was valued at $23.8 million and hemp grown for seed at $23.7 million. (Reporting by Julie Ingwersen; editing by Richard Pullin)

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