PICKENS COUNTY — The South Carolina Department of Agriculture (SCDA) has selected 20 farmers to participate in the 2018 SC Industrial Hemp Pilot Program. The farmers selected represent 15 South Carolina counties — including Pickens.
“The Industrial Hemp Pilot Program creates a new opportunity for South Carolina farmers to increase crop diversity,” said Hugh Weathers, South Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture. “Interest in the program was strong, and the Department of Agriculture worked diligently to select a broad representation of growers.”
The 20 permit recipients were chosen from 131 applications. Selection was based on several key factors, including agriculture experience, geographic balance across South Carolina, accredited college/university partner, the purpose of the crop, processor experience and location and finally, the ability to secure needed equipment and financing.
Danny Lee Ford II — with 16 acres — was the only applicant selected from Pickens County.
Five accredited universities will work with pilot program participants: University of South Carolina, Medical University of South Carolina, South Carolina State University, Clemson University and USC Beaufort.
Due to location, Ford will be working with Clemson.
Governor Henry McMaster signed H.3559 into law in May, making it legal for 20 South Carolina farmers to grow up to 20 acres of industrial hemp in 2018 for research purposes, in accordance with the 2014 Farm Bill.
“This is a new industry for South Carolina, and we’re hopeful that these first 20 growers will lay a strong foundation for an expanded 2019 program,” said Weathers. “Ultimately it’s about growth and expansion for our farmers and our economy.”
Still, people want to know, what exactly is industrial hemp?
Well, according to SCDA, industrial hemp is a variety of Cannabis sativa and is of the same plant species as marijuana. However, hemp is genetically different and distinguished by its use and chemical makeup.
Industrial hemp refers to cannabis varieties that are primarily grown as an agricultural crop. Hemp plants are low in THC (marijuana’s primary psychoactive chemical).
So, although hemp and marijuana come from the same plant species — cannabis sativa — they differ in concentrations of THC.
Legally, the SCDA states the THC levels determine whether the substance is considered an agricultural product or a regulated drug.
Because the new S.C. law defines industrial hemp as “any part of the plant with a THC concentration that does not exceed .3 percent on a dried weight basis,” anything above that is considered marijuana (and is illegal) in the state.
Hemp is used to make a variety of commercial and industrial products including rope, clothes, food, paper, textiles, plastics, insulation and biofuel.
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.