CHARLESTON, SC - Farmers all over South Carolina have been working overtime in recent months to prepare for the first legal hemp planting in decades. From the Upstate to the Lowcountry, twenty 20-acre parcels are nurturing their first industrial hemp seedlings, all of which will ultimately be harvested and used for a variety of industrial purposes.
Many of the participants are literally betting their family farms on the viability of this new crop. Six-figure investments of real cash, and countless hours of sweat equity, have been made by many farmers since permits were issued in January – all in hopes of gaining a foothold in an industry projected to spur $1.8 billion in U.S. sales by 2020.
Hemp – a member of the cannabis family that does not possess the psychoactive properties of its cousin, marijuana– has more than 25,000 known uses. The hemp plant can be used for fiber, fuel, food, construction, health and wellness products, and more.
“The farmers, researchers and processors who came together to launch the hemp industry in South Carolina are true visionaries,” said Lucas Snyder, founder and executive director of the South Carolina Hemp Farmers Association (www.schempfarmers.com). “In just a few weeks in their fields, they have made tremendous strides and discovered critical facts about the variations in our state’s micro climates, topographies and support networks, which will go a long way toward helping hemp realize its full potential in South Carolina.”
Permitting by the South Carolina Agricultural Department has allowed the initial 20 farmers to test hemp production here. Each approved permit requires farmers to link up with a research institution and to have in hand a commercial production partner. In 2019, 40 permits will be issued.
Popular wisdom claims that hemp is an easy-to-grow crop – disease, draught and pest resistant. Yet the class of 2018 has quickly learned that hemp is as challenging as any other plant. Farmers also note that one region may produce the ideal plants for popular cannabinoid – or CBD – products, while another region is ideal for the row plantings suited for fiber production.
In some participating communities, farmers are focused on one day re-invigorating abandoned tobacco warehouses or textile processors.
“Our association allows each member to collect and share data about these inaugural crops, so that these farmers and communities can benefit from industrial hemp for generations to come.”
Snyder notes that hemp cultivation has attracted a new generation of farmers, for whom stable pricing and abundant end uses are attractive. Many have seen their farms buffeted by variable market conditions that make this year’s cash generator next year’s loss leader.
South Carolina Hemp Farmers Association is an advocacy organization dedicated to creating a robust, sustainable hemp industry in South Carolina.