The South goes green: Alabama, North Carolina roll out their entry into hemp agriculture
Updated: Mar 24, 2019
Last week, a commissioner of agriculture in Alabama set the state’s new move toward hemp farming on a firm footing ahead of planting season. It was an announcement that signals a broader trend toward adoption of the much-lauded textile throughout the rich agrarian belt of the American South.
Reporting from Alabama.com confirmed last week that Rick Pate, commissioner of the Alabama Dept. of Agriculture, granted licenses to nearly 200 applicant farmers who want to plant the textile this April. 
The change wouldn’t have been possible before the plant was made legal in late 2018 with the passage of the most recent Farm Bill, making this a historic moment.
Meanwhile in North Carolina, the new legal hemp growing arena is the boon some legacy farmers needed. The Raleigh News & Observer featured a nearly 150-year-old tobacco company which is using the budding hemp industry in the state to keep running despite a shrinking market for tobacco. 
The warehouses across North Carolina which used to process dried tobacco will now perform similar tasks in handling the cut hemp, drying it into textiles and extracting the oils from which they can create CBD products many use for insomnia, anxiety and forms of epilepsy.
According to the News & Observer, there are now at least 393 state-approved hemp growers in North Carolina. 
In Alabama, state officials didn’t only process an influx of growing permits for farmers of hemp. They also approved all 70 applications of businesses and individuals trying to get started in hemp processing, according to Rick Pate of the ADA. 
Still, in southern states with histories of strict marijuana prohibition enforcement, the change isn’t viewed as an all-positive boost to industry.
"‘It is a pilot program,’ Pate said. ‘We have a responsibility to go out and inspect it. We need to see which varieties are doing better.’
If somebody planted the wrong kind of hemp, ‘we’ll plow it under,’ Pate said."
In both states, the production of hemp in state sanctioned, above-board farms has been illegal since at least 1970.
That means this fall’s harvest will be historic on a number of fronts, both for the legality change and also for the farmers who have seen dwindling markets for crops in recent years.
The Raleigh News & Observer reports that farmers are facing down uncertainty of staple crops like corn and soybeans on top of the falling interest in tobacco smoking, which fuels interest in the CBD and hemp textile trends. 
Nearly 8,000 acres of land in North Carolina is apportioned for hemp production with another 3.5 million square feet of greenhouses, according to the report.