North Carolina to Wrap Up Hemp Pilot Program as Federal Regulatory Program Takes Effect

An industrial hemp farm with mountains in the backdrop.

North Carolina farmers interested in growing hemp in 2022 will begin getting their licenses from the U.S. Department of Agriculture as North Carolina wraps up its pilot program in conjunction with federal rules going into effect this year.

Letters will soon be sent to the 1,500 licensed hemp producers in the state notifying them of the change.

“We will be working with licensed growers as this transition takes place,” said Phil Wilson, director of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Plant Industry Division, which has overseen licensing, inspection and regulation under the pilot program. “We will extend the licenses of growers who will need to renew between now and Jan. 1, 2022 to ensure there is no lapse in them having a valid license. Growers wanting to continue production can go ahead and begin the application process now through USDA’s online hemp application.”

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The federal Farm Bill of 2018 established the regulatory framework for a U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program managed by USDA, which North Carolina will fall under beginning Jan. 1, 2022. Information on the program, including requirements and the application can be found at www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/hemp/information-producers.

Background

The federal Agricultural Act of 2014 (P.L. 113-79) provided that certain research institutions and state departments of agriculture could grow industrial hemp, as part of an agricultural pilot program. As a result of that legislation, the N.C. General Assembly passed Senate Bill 313 in 2015, allowing the Industrial

Hemp Commission to develop the rules and licensing structure necessary to stay within federal laws, thereby legalizing hemp production in North Carolina. The law was modified in 2016 in House Bill 992. The Industrial Hemp Commission adopted temporary rules for review in February 2017; these were approved by the Rules Review Commission of the Office of Administrative Hearings.

Interest has been strong since the pilot program began. As of July 30, there are 1,500 licensed hemp growers in the state. Crop production numbers includes 6.8 million licensed square feet of greenhouse production and 14,016 licensed acres. In addition, there are 1,295 registered processors.

NCDA&CS will continue to assist growers with questions by submitting those to [email protected].