South Carolina is projecting a 1,200% increase in hemp farming acreage, as the state looks to join in on the booming market with others in the region.
The Post and Courier reports South Carolina has 113 permitted growers this year planting about 3,300 acres, up from 20 growers and 256 acres last year.
Jason Eargle is the founder of growing and processing center Brackish Solutions. He says the market for hemp is growing exponentially and could expand into the textile and biofuel industries.
The 2018 Farm Bill removed federal limitations on hemp cultivation and the plant’s federal status as a Schedule 1 drug.
Eargle was among those pushing expansion of the state’s program in response.
“We’ll get left behind if we don’t open this up to more people,” Eargle said. “If federal law allows it, why should we cap it? We wanted to not hold back our state from competing.”
Most of the hemp demand stems from the popularity of CBD oil.
With five years in the hemp-farming business, Kentucky has 1,035 approved growers and the region’s largest acreage, at 6,700.
“I think we’re in a really good position right now to be a solid hemp state,” said Vanessa Elsalah, hemp outreach specialist for the state Agriculture Department.
The agriculture department’s hemp division fields multiple calls daily from potential new growers hoping to plant in 2020.
“Since that law has been passed, (state Agriculture Department officials) are really jumping in head first,” Eargle said. “If they keep doing that, I think we will very quickly catch up with and surpass our neighbors.”