South Carolina Hemp Acreage Decline by 2020 | farming


GENE ZALESKI T&D Writer

Hemp was grown for the third year in a row in Orangeburg County in 2020, and for the first time, there was no cap on the number of growers or acres that could be grown.

Despite the removal of the cap, there were locally very few acres of hemp planted in the county, Orangeburg County Clemson Extension Agent Jonathan Croft said.

In Orangeburg County, there were about 19 farmers growing the crop, according to data from the South Carolina Department of Agriculture.

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There was one farmer in Calhoun County and no farmers in Bamberg County to farm in 2020.

“We won’t know how many they actually planted and how many acres they farmed until the SCDA releases that information,” said Justin Ballew, Clemson Extension’s horticulture agent.

Statewide in 2020, hemp acreage was going to decline, Ballew said.

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“The main reason for this is that growers have had a hard time finding buyers who would be willing to accept their crop once harvested,” he said. “There were around 260 growers authorized by the SCDA for this season, however, not all of them ended up planting.”

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“The hemp market was already saturated by hemp produced last season and the people who grew last season are still trying to find outlets for their cultivation,” Ballew said.

“Whether growers will be able to make money this year has yet to be determined,” Ballew said. “Some will, although if you had to make an assumption based on the last two years, most probably won’t be happy.”

“COVID-19 may make it difficult for growers to find labor or get their inputs in a timely manner,” Ballew said. “We should know more once the season is over.”

The federal Farm Bill enacted in 2014 approved the cultivation of hemp for research purposes in states that allow it.

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster signed the bill into law in May 2018, making it legal for farmers to grow the crop.

State law allowed the issuance of only 20 permits for farmers statewide to farm 20 acres each in 2018.

In 2019, 114 farmers across the state grew hemp.

The law defines industrial hemp as any part of the plant with a THC concentration of no more than 0.3% dry weight. Anything above that is considered marijuana and is illegal in the state.

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