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Have Questions About Growing Hemp? Information Session Happening in Ashe County on January 30

Hemp plants growing in Waynesville, NC as part of the pilot program at NC State University. (Photo courtesy of NC State)

By Nathan Ham

Hemp production will now be full speed ahead after the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 removed hemp from the federal controlled substance list.

The bill, better known as the 2018 Farm Bill, was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump in December of last year.

Hemp plants, which share common traits of marijuana plants, can now be grown legally in the United States with proper permits and as long as the THC levels in the plant are under a certain amount.

“The laws in North Carolina and federal changes in the 2018 Farm Bill are very strict on the THC levels being less than 0.3 percent of the biomass. That’s what the Department of Agriculture will be testing permitted growers for and growers are expected to abide by that in their attempt to source these plants,” said Richard Boylan, an Extension Agent at the N.C. Cooperative Extension office in Boone.

Boylan said that those interested in growing the crop have to be established farmers with a prior year’s Schedule F tax form on file or if a farm has been organized as a corporation, then the farm will need to have proof of agricultural expenses and income on a tax return.

“Growers who meet that condition can apply for an industrial hemp permit throught the Department of Agriculture website,” Boylan said.

Coming up at the end of January, local farmers and those interested in learning more about hemp are invited to attend a hemp information session, organized by the N.C. Cooperative Extension. The meeting will take place on Wednesday, January 30 from 1-4 p.m. at Family Central in Jefferson, located at 626 Ashe Central School Road.

Joining Boylan as featured speakers at the event include Margaret Bloomquist and Leonora Stefanile of the New Crops and Organics Program at NC State University, Dwayne Tate of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and other local growers, buyers and processors from around the state.

Some of the topics that will be discussed include plant variety choices, production techniques, pests and diseases, legal issues to navigate, economics and markets.

“Growers are beginning to successfully harvest some of this plant material in the last two years, processors are springing up to purchase it and to work with growers to turn it into a marketable product,” Boylan said. “Interest has been off the charts on this. We will have small-scale and large-scale processors who growers can approach and talk with.”

Hemp is an extremely versatile crop that has too many uses to name them all. Hemp can be used to make food, CBD oil, clothing, paper, plastic, lotion and construction materials just to name a few.

“The fiber is an exciting possibility, most of that production in North Carolina would probably be centered on the coastal plain in eastern North Carolina. To grow a fiber crop, you grow plants that reach 10, 12 or even 15 feet in height. You need a longer growing season than perhaps we have here in the mountains and you need large combines and equipment to harvest it,” Boylan said. “The crops of promise in the mountains would be hemp seed production for food and dietary supplements. For the smaller farmer, the focus is on medicinal extracts like CBD oil.”

Those interested in attending the meeting are asked to pre-register. To register, please contact NC Cooperative Extension’s Ashe County Center by e-mailing jessica_hodgson-ham@ncsu.edu or by calling 336-846-5850. There is no fee for attending the meeting, and all interested growers from the region are welcome.