The 2014 federal farm bill made legal hemp farming possible via state-regulated industrial hemp pilot programs. Since then, and despite a lack of crop insurance, Carolina farmers have found hope in hemp.

As anyone in the industry can tell you, things are growing — and changing — rapidly. So, with New Year celebrations on the horizon we asked leaders in the Carolina hemp industry to forcast what’s ahead, and what their goals are for 2019.

[Image: Appalachian Growers Farm Manager Noah Miller moves hemp harvested that morning to the trimming line for it to be inspected and trimmed before curing indoors. Photo and video (below) by Grant Baldwin.]

Just hemp, now with insurance

On Jan. 1, 2019, the 2018 farm bill becomes law, making hemp federally legal and dropping the word “industrial,” which raises questions about the future of state industrial hemp pilot programs.

“Once the farm bill is fully implemented … I do not see the need for a pilot program,” says Dr. Thomas Melton, chair of the N.C. Industrial Hemp Commission, “so I would guess it would disappear. The work of the Commission, assuming it would still exist, would be dependent on duties and authority assigned by the General Assembly. I would guess there would still be licenses and THC testing.”

Melton added he feels it is “premature and speculative” to predict what will happen as he, and others, point to state legislative bodies saying they need more regulatory certianty. The commission was funded by approximately $200,000 in donations via fundraising by the N.C. Industrial Hemp Association.

“One thing that’s huge (about the passage of the farm bill),” says Lucas Snyder, executive director of the South Carolina Hemp Farmers Association, “it allows farmers to buy crop insurance for the first time. That’s one of the biggest advantages I see in the farm bill.”

However, despite widespread speculation that federal legalization of hemp would immediately alleviate banking and advertising woes for the industry, much remains uncertian as hemp companies continue to report that their Facebook Pages are being removed from the social media platform, their other advertising is being canceled and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration asserts it authority to regulate cannabidiol (CBD).

[Read: Will the 2018 farm bill help with banking issues?]

North Carolina’s state pilot program is entering its third year with more than 700 industrial hemp licensees – including growers and processors, and in South Carolina 40 licensed hemp farmers are gearing up for that state’s second hemp season with new processors, like Blue Sky Processing, already announcing new ventures or exansions in the New Year.

Despite any uncertianty, leaders in the Carolina hemp industry are ready to charge into the New Year.

With that, here are 10 goals for the Carolina hemp industry, though if you read carefully it’s clear the overarching goal is education:

Top five goals for South Carolina hemp, from Lucas Snyder, Executive Director, South Carolina Hemp Farmers Association:

  1. Continue educating the public about what hemp is and what is can do
  2. Offer workshops and siminars across South Carolina to further outreach and education
  3. Continue to facilitate and promote processing infrastructure and businesses in South Carolina
  4. Encourage developed industries to get involved: auto, paper, textiles, aerospace, etc
  5. Get youth and young farmers involved in hemp farming

Top five goals for North Carolina hemp, from Blake Butler, executive director of the N.C. Industrial Hemp Association:

  1. To ensure the hemp opportunity strengthens rural communities across North Carolina
  2. For North Carolina to become a top state in hemp fiber and grain production
  3. To encourage more universities and colleges in N.C. to incorporate hemp education in their curriculums, fostering a new generation of innovators
  4. To strategically align ourselves with other southern states to be competitive on a world market basis thru strength in numbers
  5. Continue the hope that our nation truly embraces hemp as an agricultural commodity and the false narrative of the past fades away

Snyder agrees with Butler: Much of the negative stigma about hemp is rooted in inaccurate propaganda from the turn of the last century.

[Watch Reefer Madness, a source of inaccurate cannabis information since the 1930s.]

“Especially on the banking side of things, cannabis on a whole is very profitable,” says Snyder, “And now that a lot of the red tape and federal restrictions have been removed, and people are becoming more educated, I think a lot more opportunity will come along.”

A look back at hemp harvest 2018 in this video from Grant Baldwin taken on Sept. 11, 2018, at Appalachian Growers in Franklin, N.C., as Hurricane Florence approached.

BY Rhiannon Fionn

BY Rhiannon Fionn

Editor & Publisher

Rhiannon Fionn is an award-winning journalist based in Charlotte, N.C.