Hemp Oversight May be in Jeopardy Following the North Carolina Exit

Hemp production plans have proven to be quite costly, giving compliance, enforcement, and testing requirements. On top of that, the cost of labor is an unignorable expense. Therefore, the overall cost of hemp oversight has forced many states to reconsider their hemp plans.

It was the actual reason why North Carolina bowed out of the hemp oversight operation recently. However, given that North Carolina was one of the biggest hemp markets, it has caused a stir in many states who are now confused about their hemp oversight plans.

As a result of the discontinuation of the hemp plan, North Carolina farmers need to apply for their licenses via the USDA from the following year.

In a recent post, Hemp Industry Daily shares some detailed insights about the future of the hemp oversight plans in many other states. Unfortunately, at the moment, it seems all too confusing.

North Carolina Notifies the USDA of the Discontinuation

Hemp plants growing in a field.

Last week, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services revealed its exit from the hemp oversight plan to the USDA. Therefore, all hemp farming licenses in North Carolina will be ineffective by the start of 2022.

As a result of this decision, a new set of challenges and possible hardships await the North Carolina Hemp industry.

Farmer Licenses Must Go Through the USDA

Marne Coit shared his take on the hemp production plan transition and how it will affect the farmers. She is a Senior Lecturer of Agricultural Law at North Carolina State University.

According to Coit, the farmers need to apply for hemp production licenses through the USDA. Moreover, the license applications need to be submitted earlier enough, given that the transition of supervision from the North Carolina administration to the USDA will also take some time.

North Carolina licensed 1,500 hemp producers that account for a total outdoor production space of 14,016 acres and almost 7 million square feet of indoor production space in the current year. Therefore, a production plan of such magnitude can potentially suffer, disturbing the state’s economy and the hemp workers.

Should States Ask for More Time?

Currently, the federal law suggests that states must submit their hemp plans to the USDA. Or else, they can transfer the control of these production plans to the federal authorities.

The growers who opt for transferring control to the government need to apply directly to the US Department of Agriculture. Given the approval, the growers can continue hemp production. However, the time frame for licensing seems a bit too stiff for these hemp growers.

As a result, the growers now look up to Congress to ask for more time to make the process more convenient for them. Currently, Congress intervention seems to be the only solution to the problem.

Spending Bills Include Measures to Extend Hemp Pilot Program

Amidst the transfer of control, the senate approved spending bills suggest that the 2014 Farm Bill proposes measures to extend the hemp pilot program till 2023. It means that the bill’s signing could allow the states a bit more time and relaxation.

There is no apparent hindrance to the extension, and there are high chances that the bill can turn into law within a few months.

According to hemp production supporters, the bill shall allow the states to continue their hemp program for another year. There will be no need to submit the production plan per the 2018 farm bill and the USDA hemp production rules.

Herrick Fox, the co-chair of the National Industrial Hemp Committee, stated that the stakeholders in each state must get in touch with the hemp regulators in their respective states and share their thoughts on the road ahead.  

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North Carolina Doesn’t Have Enough Time

Even though the extension bill can help the other states, it looks like there is not enough time for North Carolina. At least that’s what Coit thinks. It follows the announcement from the state regulators on Thursday.

The problem with North Carolina is that it doesn’t have the legal authority to ask for an extension at the moment. The agriculture department in North Carolina looks after the hemp production affairs in the state. The department is responsible for the submission of the state’s hemp production plans.

However, the issues regarding smokable hemp in 2020 suggest the hemp oversight plan could not make the final cut.

As a result, the responsibility to submit the hemp plan fell on the shoulders of the lawmakers in the state. However, the strict time frames mean that North Carolina may not make it to the extension.

States Face a Challenge Over Production Issues

As North Carolina’s hemp production plan expires by the end of the year, it will pose a new challenge for the hemp growers in the state. It means that the hemp commission will dissolve, so the support mechanism for hemp growers is likely to suffer.

Furthermore, Coit believes that when the oversight program goes into the hands of the federation, it will add an extra layer of bureaucracy, leaving the growers to deal with the issue directly. Currently, farmers ask the state department of agriculture to test for compliance.

As the control falls to the USDA, the farmers must find some other body to conduct the compliance testing. It becomes more challenging for the farmers because the hemp harvest period is quite sensitive, and the testing could take additional time.

The Other Side of the Exit

On the contrary, it also means that the growers won’t pay a $500 per 2 acres licensing fee. Also, there will be no need for the farmers to show their farm income and previous taxes. Currently, it’s a requirement across North Carolina.

A Welcome Challenge for Growers

Charles Peterson grows hemp over 12 acres in Wendell. He believes that the federal oversight is a good chance for him, and it’s possibly the right thing to do. He also indicated that the USDA holds more resources for effective hemp growth.

He is optimistic about the federation managing this program and thinks it will add more effectiveness to the process. Peterson is also the leader of the National Association of Minority Farmers in Industrial Hemp.

What Will the Other States Do

As North Carolina goes for federal oversight, it will tempt other states to do the same. According to Coit, if we look at Wisconsin as an example, there are chances that the state will continue its state-supervised program till the end of 2021. However, it may transfer control to the federal government from next year.

Federal Oversight May Cause Problems for USDA

Hemp leaves and plants.

According to Fox, as states go for federal oversight, it can create problems for the USDA. The more states opt for this plan, the more licensing will fall on the USDA> It means that there will be more pressure on the department than ever before.


According to Fox, four of the top five largest hemp-producing states in the US constitute 70% of the country’s licenses in terms of acreage. However, these states are still working under the 2014 pilot plan. So, only time will tell if the USDA has sufficient resources to meet the burden if the states transfer hemp oversight control to the federation.

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