A cash crop is an agricultural crop which is grown for sale to return a profit. It is typically purchased by parties separate from a farm. The term cash crop is applied exclusively to the agricultural production of plants; animal agriculture is not a part of the terminology. The term is used to differentiate marketed crops from subsistence crops, which are those fed to the producer’s own livestock or grown as food for the producer’s family. In earlier times cash crops were usually only a small (but vital) part of a farm’s total yield, while today, especially in developed countries, almost all crops are mainly grown for revenue. In least developed countries, cash crops are usually crops which attract demand in more developed nations, and hence have some export value.
Prices for major cash crops are set in commodity markets with global scope, with some local variation (termed as “basis”) based on freight costs and local supply and demand balance. A consequence of this is that a nation, region, or individual producer relying on such a crop may suffer low prices should a bumper crop elsewhere lead to excess supply on the global markets. This system has been criticized by traditional farmers. Coffee is an example of a product that has been susceptible to significant commodity futures price variations.
Marijuana as a Cash Crop
Back in the 1700s, Pennsylvania, along with many other U.S. states, benefited from the sale of hemp — marijuana’s non-psychotropic cousin — as a major cash crop. At one point in time, there were hemp mills scattered across Lancaster and York counties, in the heart of Central PA. But these are long gone.
Last year, in response to a federal farm bill, two Pennsylvania state legislators introduced legislation that would reinstate hemp as a legal crop in PA. It could be a huge economic boon to a state that’s been embroiled in a months-long budget stalemate.
And marijuana as a cash crop? It’s potentially more lucrative still. Jon Gettman estimates that legal pot could become a $35 billion industry if the government plays its cards right, which would go a long way toward shoring up states gripped by financial insolvency.
But let’s return to the question of hemp for a moment, because its fate is so closely entwined with that of marijuana. Back in the days of Washington and Jefferson, hemp was a crop that touched a great many industries. An acre of hemp, for example, can provide as much fiber as two or three acres of cotton, according to some experts. It also has applications in the industries of paper, molded plastics, food, automobile parts and more.
And where you have new products, you have new businesses. And new business lead to new jobs and across-the-board economic prosperity. If America’s community of entrepreneurs and business people feel strongly that they’d like to take advantage of this emerging market, it’s time to let our votes reflect that fact.