South Carolina is beefing up its Industrial Hemp Pilot Program for 2019, with up to 40 farmers permitted to grow up to 40 acres of the crop each.
During this year’s growing season, 20 farmers have been able to grow 20 acres apiece; so potentially the amount of land under hemp cultivation will jump from under 400 acres this year (not all permit holders are growing the full 20 acres) to 1,600 acres in 2019.
“Expanding the Industrial Hemp Pilot Program will give us a greater opportunity to assess where and how this crop grows best in South Carolina,” said Hugh Weathers, Commissioner of Agriculture. “Ultimately, industrial hemp is about crop diversity and new business for our rural farmers.”
It’s expected there will be no shortage of interest for the next round. In an interview with Southern Farm Network, Commissioner Weathers said close to 140 applications were received for the 2018 growing season – so only just over 14% of applicants scored a guernsey.
In order to qualify for a permit, interested parties must:
be a South Carolina resident
pass a state and federal background check
possess a signed letter of intent with an industrial hemp manufacturer or processor;
have a signed letter of intent with a qualifying college or university; and
provide GPS coordinates for the plot of land where industrial hemp will be grown.
A 10-page form needs to be completed and submitted by Friday, June 29 for the 2019 program.
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster signed a bill into law in last May making it legal for industrial hemp to be grown for research purposes in the state, in accordance with the federal 2014 Farm Bill.
Under South Carolina regulations, industrial hemp is defined as any part of Cannabis sativa L. with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dried weight basis. However, growers or processors are able to retain any industrial hemp that tests between three-tenths of one percent to one percent THC on a dry weight basis if it is “reconditioned”, by grinding it with the stem and stalk.
The state has an association with hemp going back to at least the 18th Century. An Act was passed in 1733 to support growing the crop for applications relating the Royal Navy.