Jim Bowen

Farmers in North Carolina can now apply to grow industrial hemp as part of a pilot program in the state, the Virginian-Pilot reports. The program allows hemp to be cultivated for both research and commerce purposed and officials hope it will help the state’s farms cope with low prices on more conventional crops.

“There has been a tremendous amount of interest in growing hemp,” Sandy Stewart, director of the Research Station for the state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Resources, said in the report.

Interested farmers can apply to grow hemp with the state Industrial Hemp Commission. Officials from the Agriculture Department will test the crops to ensure they meet the standards of the federal Farm Bill and growers will have to report the precise locations of the crops using GPS technology. Farmers will report findings to the commission, such as the best soils, how well it sells, the value, and what equipment is required to process crops.

Dave Schmitt, COO of Spring Hope-based Industrial Hemp Manufacturing LLC, said that one potential customer is Volvo Truck North America in Greensboro, who could use hemp for the door panels, head liners, and other auto interior parts. Industrial Hemp Manufacturing used kenaf, a hemp cousin, to produce an absorbent material used during the cleanup of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Don Parks, manager of C.A. Perry & Son, a farm in Weeksville, said that farmers will likely embrace the crop “if it proves [economically] viable.”

“I can’t wait to see somebody try it,” he said.

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