North Carolina: Industrial Hemp Pilot Program To Expand in 2017

Hemp House Ashville

For centuries, industrial hemp (plant species Cannabis sativa) has been a source of fiber and oilseed used worldwide to produce a variety of industrial and consumer products.

By Michael Bachara
Hemp News

Applications are being accepted for a pilot program to grow industrial hemp for research in North Carolina.

Under the rules, farmers will need to apply for a license to plant, harvest and market the crop. There will be licenses for one or three years available. Applications will be reviewed and approved or denied by the Industrial Hemp Commission. There is no deadline to apply for the program.

Qualified applicants will need to pay an annual fee, provide evidence of income from a farming operation, provide a written statement of their research objective and allow access to the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Plant Industry Division and state law enforcement to sample the field.

"Our aim is to see some industrial hemp growing in North Carolina this year and the only way you can grow it is thru a pilot research program," said Brian Long, of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture. "Actually, so it will coincide with federal law, it was another thing that was in the last farm bill, opening the door to industrial hemp research across the United States."

"We are very optimistic about the future because we have the combination of expertise, climate, soil and partnerships to meet the world's growing demand for food," Long said.

State lawmakers created the North Carolina Hemp Commission. The group, which consists of university professors, farmers, and law enforcement, will approve farmers to be a part of the hemp research pilot program. University researchers from NC State and NC A&T will compile data to help farmers produce a viable crop. The commission will also help publicize the data.

“The N.C. Industrial Hemp Commission has worked diligently and quickly to establish temporary rules before the 2017 planting season,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “There has been considerable interest in this program, and we expect a good number of farmers to apply for licenses.”

Interest in industrial hemp has grown, as it has numerous uses including fiber, building material, food, and medicine. The first modern hemp house in the United States was built in Asheville, North Carolina.

“Our goal is to have a 2017 industrial hemp crop, but there are many, many steps we must work through before we can even put seed in the ground,” said Dr. Sandy Stewart, vice chairman of the commission and director of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Research Stations Division. “While the initial work has begun, farmers need to realistically understand that there are still significant bridges to cross between now and May of 2017, when planting could begin. That includes navigating import protocols to obtain seeds, since they would likely have to come from outside the United States.”

Industrial hemp was grown in North Carolina in the 1800's and 1900's, primarily for its fiber. According to a recent statement from North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, for centuries, industrial hemp (plant species Cannabis sativa) has been a source of fiber and oilseed used worldwide to produce a variety of industrial and consumer products.

Currently, more than 30 nations grow industrial hemp as an agricultural commodity, which is sold on the world market. In the United States, however, production is strictly controlled under existing drug enforcement laws. Currently there is no large-scale commercial production in the United States and the U.S. market depends on imports.