The South Carolina Department of Agriculture (SCDA) said that it will begin accepting applications for hemp farming, handling and processing permits for the 2020 growing season starting Feb. 1, 2020. Now in its third year, South Carolina’s hemp farming program has grown from 20 farmers in 2018 to 114 permitted farmers and 43 processors at the end of the 2019 season.
In 2020, there is no cap on the number of permits SCDA can issue, and no cap on hemp acreage. SCDA will no longer allow “responsible parties” growing under another farmer’s permit, meaning each person who wishes to farm hemp must apply for a permit.
Requests To Change Federal Rules
SCDA’s Hugh Weathers is asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to revise its national regulatory framework for hemp to better set up South Carolina’s Hemp Farming Program for success. USDA released its interim final rule on hemp on Oct. 31, 2019, and the South Carolina Department of Agriculture is in the process of writing a state plan that complies with the federal rule.
The SCDA has voiced several concerns about testing requirements in the federal rule and has formally submitted comments to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue asking that they are reconsidered. For example, the federal rule mandates that all hemp fields be sampled by SCDA-designated staff and tested by a DEA-registered laboratory within 15 days prior to harvest, a window SCDA feels is too narrow. Farmers are at the mercy of weather conditions, while laboratories are likely to experience back-ups during harvest season, and SCDA has not been given any funding to administer this testing.
“We believe that several provisions in the interim final rule lack the flexibility necessary for our farmers to be profitable and for SCDA to be able to implement a successful hemp program,” Weathers wrote.
Requirements to receive a hemp farming permit include:
SCDA will also license hemp processors and, for the first time this year, hemp handlers, a category that includes transporters, seed dealers, laboratories, and others who handle hemp. Separate permitting fees, facility requirements, validation inspections and certificate of occupancy are required.
Farming applications will be accepted Feb. 1, 2020, through March 31, 2020, while processing and handling applications will become available Feb. 1 and will remain open through the year. Applications will be available on the SCDA website, agriculture.sc.gov/hemp, starting Feb. 1.