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Cannabis Farms Under Attack by Grasshoppers in Colorado

Cannabis farmers in Colorado are facing an unprecedented challenge this year: an invasion of grasshoppers that are swiftly destroying their crops. This alarming situation is a consequence of an above-average rainy season and flourishing vegetation in 2023.

Humble Farms’ Loss

Humble Farms, a multi-tiered cultivation facility in southern Colorado, has become a victim of this grasshopper onslaught. Jon McIntosh, along with his son Ben, is behind Humble Farms, and they’ve been growing cannabis outdoors for some time. However, this year they’ve had to make a tough decision. The grasshoppers devoured the majority of their outdoor plants, leaving only a handful out of a thousand.

The Wider Impact

The grasshopper problem isn’t limited to just a few farms. Tobe Allubaugh, the cannabis business liaison in Crowley County, notes that the entire county’s outdoor cannabis output will be cut in half this year due to the grasshoppers.

Cannabis growers who managed to escape the infestation still face the uncertainty of Colorado’s unpredictable weather. Grasshoppers are feasting on entire branches, causing considerable damage, as Nathaniel Eaton of Stargazer Farms, an outdoor grow in Ordway, explains. However, hail is another threat they must navigate.

Challenges with Crop Insurance

The arrival of these pests coincided with an already challenging time for cannabis growers. After two years of record-low prices, Colorado cannabis prices were finally starting to recover. The outdoor cannabis harvest occurs once a year, in the fall, which means that affected growers might have to wait until the next year to replant.

Moreover, crop insurance isn’t a practical solution for most cannabis growers. This is partly because it’s challenging to find insurers willing to cover federally prohibited plants, and policies can be prohibitively expensive, costing around $500,000 for roughly 1,000 plants.

Survivors May Reap Benefits

While growers who manage to save their crops might see higher prices during the cannabis harvest season next month, it’s a tough situation for those who’ve already lost their crops. Many of them planted thousands of plants only to see them decimated within days.

Wider Pest Issues

Southern Colorado isn’t the only region facing a bug problem. On the Western Slope, farmers are battling Mormon crickets, which have spread across multiple states. These pests have caused significant economic damage, even if some defensive measures are in place.

Unconventional Defenses

Some growers in Ordway are trying unconventional approaches to fend off the grasshoppers, including using chickens and turkeys as a security force. However, the introduction of such animals raises concerns, and it’s important to ensure they don’t lead to potential contamination of the cultivation.

While the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division doesn’t explicitly prohibit the use of chickens or other animals, it does emphasize the need for clean and well-maintained facilities to prevent microorganism growth.

The battle against the grasshoppers continues, and the consequences are felt across Colorado’s cannabis industry.