Pubdate: Tue, 01 May 2018
Source: State, The (SC)
Copyright: 2018 The State
Authors: Noah Feit And Jeff Wilkinson


The number of hemp farmers in SC is growing fast. How high will it

Less than a year into the program, the number of farmers growing hemp
in South Carolina could double.

That's because the South Carolina Department of Agriculture is making
more permits available for farmers looking to participate in the
Industrial Hemp Pilot Program.

The SCDA will select up to 40 farmers to receive permits to grow
industrial hemp. That's twice the amount of the 20 farmers chosen in
the inaugural year of the program.

Not only is the number of farmers doubling for 2019, but so is the
amount of crops the selected farmers will be permitted to grow. The
2018 pilot program allowed 20 farmers to grow up to 20 acres of
industrial hemp, but according to SCDA, farmers who receive permits
will each be allowed to grow up to 40 acres.

"Expanding the Industrial Hemp Pilot Program will give us a greater
opportunity to assess where and how this crop grows best in South
Carolina," S.C. Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers said in a
news release. "Ultimately, industrial hemp is about crop diversity and
new business for our rural farmers."

Hemp is a cousin of marijuana, but it contains 0.3 percent or less of
the psychoactive chemical that will get you high. Marijuana, a
separate variety of Cannabis sativa, can contain up to 40 percent.

But since World War II, hemp has been banned in South Carolina.

"It's mystifying to me why we banned it in the first place," said
former S.C. state Rep. Chip Limehouse, who was one of 20 farmers who
received the state's first permits to grow the crop in December 2017.
"This could be as big as cotton, rice or indigo. It could rescue South
Carolina agriculture."

Hemp has myriad uses, from food to clothing to composites for car and
airplane parts to oils for medicines and dietary supplements.

When the program was launched, Weathers said it was about "growth and
expansion for our farmers and our economy."

Doubling the size of the program so soon is an endorsement from the
government. One of the farmers selected to participate in 2018 also
approves of the program.

Janel Ralph was one of the first 20 farmers selected to participate in
growing hemp crops. The founder Palmetto Harmony in Conway is growing
4,000 plants in greenhouses to produce cannabidiol (CBD) oil, which
can have therapeutic benefits.

The company is named after Ralph's daughter Harmony, who takes CBD oil
to control her seizures from intractable epilepsy. Ralph was the first
to apply for a growers permit.

Ralph told The State that South Carolina needs to increase the scope
of the hemp growing program to keep up with other states, including
North Carolina.

"We don't want to get behind the curve of these other states that have
no limitations," Ralph said Tuesday, referring to North Carolina,
which has 300 growers and no limitations on acreage.

Thirty-one states have laws that provide for hemp production or that
allow pilot programs under the auspices of the federal 2014 Farm Bill.
The states include North Carolina and Tennessee.

Colorado and Kentucky lead the nation in hemp production, growing the
crop on more than 10,000 acres each.

To qualify for a permit, applicants must:

* submit GPS coordinates for the land where industrial hemp will be

Applications for the 2019 program are available online and must be
completed and postmarked by June 29.
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