Industrial Hemp Growers Interest Meeting

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In December 2018, President Trump signed the Farm Bill. In the bill, Industrial Hemp was removed from the controlled substance list. This allows more extensive cultivation of hemp and explicitly enables the transfer of hemp-derived products across state lines for commercial or other purposes. It also puts no restrictions on the sale, transport, or possession of hemp-derived products, so long as those items are produced in a manner consistent with the law.

Since 2016 North Carolina has had pilot research hemp program for Industrial Hemp. Industrial hemp is not the same as marijuana. Both are Cannabis that have been developed through selective breeding for different purposes. Hemp varieties have been selected for their seed oil and fiber properties and marijuana for its narcotic properties. Cannabis that can be smoked for a “high” contains more than 10% THC, in fact, most marijuana contains 20-30% THC. Industrial hemp by law must contain less than .3% THC. But it’s the same plant, right? Well yes and no, sweet corn and field corn are the same, but you wouldn’t serve field corn at your church picnic. Through traditional breeding, both have traits that have been selected for their different purposes.

young hemp plants growing in field trial

Hemp grown for CBD oils on white plastic at the Piedmont Research Station

In North Carolina, the NC Industrial Hemp Commission oversees and licenses the growing of Industrial Hemp in NC. The commission provides oversight and administration of the federal and state laws for growing industrial hemp. In 2018

NC had 6,133 licensed acres, 394 licensed growers and 1.6 million square feet in licensed greenhouse space. Hemp can be raised for seed, fiber, or flower (oil extracts). The majority of production in NC is focused on growing hemp for the flowers primarily the CBD market. CBD or cannabidiol is one of over 100 cannabinoids identified in hemp plants. Another cannabinoid is THC, tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.

Man holding a hemp stem overhead. The stem extends above his outstretched arm.

Hemp grown for fiber can be 12-15 ft tall

Growers must report when plants are flowering so they can be tested for THC. Growers must submit samples of their hemp 3-5 weeks into flowers. If the level of TH is above 0.3%, the crop must be destroyed. Growers need to be aware that plant stresses like drought, flood, heat or cold can cause a spike THC. In 2018 400 hemp samples were tested, and 38 came back above the 0.3% threshold of THC. About 10% of the hemp fields are ‘going hot,’ which is a serious risk for a producer to take. Production costs for growing hemp for CBD are estimated at $13,000 to

$15,000 per acre primarily due to the high cost of female clone plants ($5 to $10 per plant with 1200 to 1500 plants per acre). The potential gross profit for growing hemp for CBD oils has been reported anywhere from $15,000-$35,000/acre. There are still a lot of unknowns about growing the crop, and not everyone is allowed to grow hemp. Only bona fide farmers may apply for a license to grow hemp. This means you must have income from farming that you report on your federal income tax report or a Schedule F.

The N.C. Cooperative Extension of Rowan and Davidson County offices are hosting an interest meeting for Industrial Hemp Growers on February 22, 2019. The meeting will be from 1-4:30 p.m. at the Rowan Agricultural Building (2727 Old Concord Road, Salisbury). Experts from NC State University will be discussing current research and production guidelines. Dr. Tom Melton from NC State and director of the NC Industrial Hemp Commission will go over the rule and regulations for growing hemp. Processors and buyers will also be available. There is no cost to this meeting, but registration is required as space is limited.

Register online or call 704-216-8970. For more information about industrial hemp or any other agricultural topic contact the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Rowan County Center at 704-216-8970.