Hemp plants have been unfairly classified in the same way as cannabis plants for quite some time now – but in 2014, the federal government passed a farming bill that allows hemp to be grown for research purposes. North Carolina is the next state to jump into the hemp growing world and now they’re looking for farmers who want to take part in this experiment.
“There has been a tremendous amount of interest in growing hemp,” said Sandy Stewart, director of the Research Station for the state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Resources.
Those who are interested in growing hemp must first apply for a license with the state’s Industrial Hemp Commission. The commission is made up of university researchers, farmers and law enforcement agents. The Industrial Hemp Commission will be reviewing applications and selecting licenses, and also helping the selected farmers to market their hemp crops.
Once farmers have been selected, they will be subject to monitoring by the state agricultural agents, who will test the plants to ensure they don’t contain more than three-tenths of a percent of THC – any more than that would classify the plants as marijuana, which is still illegal in North Carolina for both medicinal and recreational purposes.
There will also be strict monitoring to keep track of where plants are located, and farmers will be required to report each acre that hemp will be grown on. On top of that, they need to provide precise locations, via GPS technologies.
“The goal, since it is a research program, is over time, for it to become a profitable platform for North Carolina and a good alternative for some of our other commodities as well,” said Tom Melton of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension.
Eventually the goal is to be able to market and sell hemp to produce items like cloth, oils and more that the U.S. is already importing from other countries – however the main goal is research, which will be conducted by researchers from North Carolina State and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. Their research should help farmers to grow larger and healthier crops in the future.
Considering the industrial hemp market is estimated to be a $500 million market, this would likely be a very profitable crop for farmers to take on – and some are even hoping that having a lucrative crop like hemp will help bring younger people back to agriculture – which has seemed like a less and less reliable trade in recent years with fluctuating prices for many common crops. Allowing hemp would hopefully not only help out farmers, but also those who wish to produce hemp products in North Carolina (and eventually other states as well).