NC Farm Act to Position State for Hemp Leadership

(March 20, 2019) Raleigh, N.C. – Senator Brent Jackson (R-Sampson) today announced the NC Farm Act of 2019, which uses recent federal rule changes to establish a regulatory framework for expanded hemp production in North Carolina. Senator Jackson was joined by Senators Norm Sanderson (R-Pamlico), Todd Johnson (R-Union), Harry Brown (R-Onslow), Vickie Sawyer (R-Iredell), Chuck Edwards (R-Henderson), Tom McInnis (R-Richmond), and Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler.

Senator Jackson said, “Now is the time to act to position North Carolina as a national leader in hemp production. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is finalizing new regulations, and the Farm Act will allow our state to move forward immediately upon federal approval. This is a potential boom industry, and we need to be ready to compete.”

Commissioner Troxler said, “By passing the Farm Act, North Carolina will have the guidelines in place for a hemp program that is compliant with federal law, protects public health, and fosters growth in the state’s agriculture industry.”

Senator Sanderson said, “A large percent of what has for decades been North Carolina’s primary farm money crop has been lost through the reduction in tobacco growth. Because of its many uses, the hemp production industry has the potential to provide North Carolina farmers with an additional source of desperately needed income. It is the responsibility of the State to take the lead in the oversight of this newly growing industry. This Farm Bill starts that process.”

Senator Johnson said, “Thank you to Senator Jackson and Commissioner Troxler for their work to continue to strengthen North Carolina’s agriculture industry. This bill’s focus on setting our state up to be a leader in the emerging hemp market displays the type of foresight that has made us so successful.”

Larry Wooten, President of the N.C. Farm Bureau, said, “North Carolina Farm Bureau appreciates the legislature’s continued work to lessen the regulatory burden that all too often weighs down North Carolina’s farmers and agribusinesses. Agriculture is North Carolina’s largest industry, but it is struggling because of, among other factors, bad weather, tough trade negotiations and low commodity prices. As with the previous six Farm Acts that have been enacted since 2013, this legislation is an important tool that will help North Carolina’s farmers remain competitive and continue to grow North Carolina’s number one economic driver.”

The federal government recently acted to bring laws governing hemp production in the United States in line with much of the world. Previously, Congress permitted only small-scale hemp pilot programs, which North Carolina adopted successfully. The 2018 Federal Farm Bill allows for wide-scale hemp production provided states adopt stringent licensing and enforcement standards.

Federal law requires hemp to contain less than 0.3 percent THC, which is a very small fraction of the THC contained in marijuana plants. The rules imposed by the 2018 federal farm bill require states to implement regulations to license hemp producers and to closely monitor the THC levels in their product.

To comply with those requirements, The NC Farm Act of 2019 establishes the North Carolina Hemp Commission, sets forth qualifications for hemp production licensees (including prohibitions on licenses to individuals with past drug offenses), and defines civil and criminal penalties for producers who violate the law. The bill also requires a valid license to market and sell cannabinoid-related products, including CBD oil.

In addition to the hemp provisions, The NC Farm Act of 2019 also:

·      Makes changes to rules governing easements;

·      Establishes that operators of farm equipment have the right-of-way if cars attempt to pass on the left;

·      Increases the maximum size of outdoor farm advertisements near highways and expands the types of farms that can display the outdoor advertisements;

·      Continues existing regulations governing agricultural storage;

·      Adds hunting, fishing, and shooting sports to agritourism;

·      Brands N.C. Sweet Potatoes;

·      Makes various changes to activities permitted for Soil and Water District staff.