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NC farmers can now apply to grow hemp for research

Steve Troxler is sworn in as Commissioner of Agriculture during a ceremony on Friday, January 6, 2017 at the Executive Mansion in Raleigh.
Steve Troxler is sworn in as Commissioner of Agriculture during a ceremony on Friday, January 6, 2017 at the Executive Mansion in Raleigh. rwillett@newsobserver.com

In 2015, hemp became legal to cultivate for commercial purposes in North Carolina. As of Monday, farmers can submit applications to join the state’s hemp research pilot program, according to Department of Agriculture officials.

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

Under the rules, created by lawmakers during the 2016 legislative session, farmers must apply for a license allowing them to plant, harvest and market hemp.

Those granted a license will pay an annual fee, provide evidence of farming income, submit a written research objective, and provide access to the Department of Agriculture and law enforcement to sample the hemp. The Industrial Hemp Commission will approve licenses, which last one to three years.

The commission’s first chairman, Tom Melton, is head of N.C. State University’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Program.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 20 states have passed laws allowing for research and pilot programs since recent changes to federal farm policy opened opportunities for universities and state departments of agriculture to grow industrial hemp for research.

Farmers across America in the 1800s and early 1900s cultivated hemp for various uses, including fiber. In the 1960 and 1970s, hemp cultivation was shunned and generally outlawed, due to its close relation with marijuana.

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