2018 Farm Bill Could Help Expand Industrial Hemp In North Carolina

Jan 8, 2019

Credit North Carolina Industrial Hemp Association

More than 80 prospective hemp growers in North Carolina were given approval yesterday to participate in the state’s pilot program. 

Industrial hemp, which is touted for its medicinal and industrial uses, is a burgeoning business in North Carolina.  On Monday, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture's Industrial Hemp Commission approved the applications of 82 new growers.  Growers must now pay licensing fees to receive a permit to begin growing industrial hemp as an agricultural commodity. The approval of applications comes less than a month after the 2018 Farm Bill became law.  One of the provisions in the bill removes industrial hemp from the Federal Controlled Substances Act as long as it contains no more than .3 percent of THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis. 

"What we have been operating under is the provisions of the 2014 Farm Bill and our state legislative action that conformed with that that developed a pilot program for research purposes," said Jon Lanier, Assistant General Council at the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.  "So the 2018 Farm Bill appears to eliminate that aspect of it, the research aspect of it, in attempts to essentially legalize the growth of industrial hemp as a commodity for commercial purposeses."

Under the 2018 Farm Bill, the N.C. Department of Agriculture must develop and submit a new plan to the U. S. Department of Agriculture identifying where industrial hemp is being grown, who is growing it, and how the state tests each crop for THC.  The state already compiles this data as part of the research pilot program.  The Industrial Hemp Commission will work to ensure that the pilot program stays compliant to federal law while safeguarding public health, said Alexander Stewart, Commission Vice Chair.

“I think we have a tremendous opportunity here to continue to foster this new crop and this new industry because it does have great potential to contribute to our ag economy and the economy of the state in general.  Agriculture in North Carolina is still the largest industry in the state.  It's an $87 billion industry and I think industrial hemp holds great promise to increase that number.”

The North Carolina Hemp Pilot program started in 2014.   Currently, there are 438 licensed growers in North Carolina producing more than 6,077 acres of industrial hemp.