Why hemp could be NC farmers' dream crop

Farmers in North Carolina are being left out of the current revival of industrial hemp. The 2014 Federal Farm Bill not only distinguishes hemp from marijuana, it defines hemp as an agricultural crop. This Farm Bill authorizes universities and state agriculture departments to conduct pilot programs for academic and agriculture research.

However, North Carolina has a state law that prohibits hemp production, and as long as that law is on the books these hemp pilot programs are forbidden to our universities and to our biotech, pharmaceutical and crop research facilities.

Eleven states have legalized hemp, and many of their universities and ag departments are already managing pilot programs to determine the hemp variety that best suits their climate, soil and potential industrial demands. The industrial possibilities in North Carolina are textiles, construction, furniture and composite material for the auto industry.

Hemp is a farmer’s dream crop: low-labor, a small amount of fertilizer, no herbicide or pesticide to pollute the land and waterways, an ideal rotational crop with a plus: It reduces the soy bean nematode problem by 60 percent.

The North Carolina Farm Bureau and the State Department of Agriculture have stated that North Carolina farmers have shown little support or interest in hemp production. When British farmers, prohibited from growing hemp, discovered that hemp paper was being imported from France, the farmers marched on the Ministry of Agriculture and got the laws changed. Now hemp farmers in the U.K. produce the raw material for Mercedes door panels and dashboards and various construction components.

Companies in the Southeast are already importing processed hemp fibers from Canada. Now is the time for N.C. farmers to march. Get the state law changed. Get the pilot programs going at N.C. universities. Our farmers deserve the right to raise this useful crop, and our farmers are the perfect people to lead this hemp parade.

Gale Glenn of Durham is vice chairman of the North American Industrial Hemp Council.