Written by Shawndra Russell
It’s a booming market for the Western North Carolina hemp industry, with some observers even predicting that hemp will become a cash crop to rival tobacco during its heyday.
Hemp is having a moment, from the halls of D.C. to the mountains of North Carolina, which ranked as having the seventh-most outdoor acreage dedicated to hemp in the United States as of December 2017, according to Hemp Industry Daily’s “Hemp Report: Top 10 U.S. States.” However, if that same list was produced right now, North Carolina might catapult to third, depending on the rate of growth in the states of Oregon, North Dakota, Minnesota, and New York. How is that possible? Because in just the first quarter of 2018, North Carolina’s number of approved outdoor hemp acres has jumped 112%, from 1,930 to 4,102 acres as of May 2018. Back in December 2017, Oregon held the third spot on this list, with just 3,500 hemp acres, trailing the significant leads of Colorado and Kentucky, which have 12,000+ acres of licensed cultivation space.
Colorado’s trailblazing status in the marijuana industry makes their dominance in hemp no surprise, while Kentucky’s history as a tobacco-producing state led to many tobacco farmers looking for more lucrative or alternative crops like hemp. But what’s helping North Carolina climb the ranks as a leader in the hemp industry is its willingness to go all-in when it comes to this once-controversial crop. This support, including forming the N.C. Industrial Hemp Commission, led to our state cultivating more growers, more acres, and more processors than any other state had done in their first year of hemp production. Yes, you read that right: North Carolina has made all this progress in just one growing season, and if the other three quarters of 2018 repeat what the state experienced in the first quarter, we could be looking at the state having over 6,000 licensed acres.
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