Georgia farmers can begin legally cultivating hemp this summer.
Whether or not farmers in Georgia would be able to grow the crop this year was in doubt until the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved the state’s hemp plan this month. This is according to a report by local news outlet AJC.com, which states that the federal government had put Georgia’s plan on hold late last year but gave it the go-ahead when state legislators appropriated $200,000 to regulate the program in this year’s budget and proposed additional funding next fiscal year.
“With everything online and all systems go, our phones are ringing daily with farmers,” said Thomas Farmer, a co-founder of Second Century Ag, which plans to distribute hemp starter plants to farmers and then process grown hemp at a facility in Ocilla. “It’s a relief that it happened, without a doubt. We were looking forward to moving forward.”
Hemp farmers and processors rushed to obtain licenses when state government began accepting applications last Monday. The Georgia Department of Agriculture received 57 applications for hemp farming licenses and five applications for hemp processing licenses in the first four days of the program.
It will take at least 20 days for hemp licenses to be approved, and then farming can start.
“Georgia has the ability to be a significant player in the country, particularly given our climate,” said Kevin Quirk, the CEO for Harvest Connect in Roswell. “People say they’re not sure how it’s going to grow in the red clay. Guess what, it’s growing really well in tests” by the University of Georgia.
“The ultimate goal is for hemp grown in the state of Georgia to be the next Idaho potatoes, California raisins or Vidalia onions,” Barden said. “I’m excited beyond belief. This means we can all finally get to work.”
Hemp will be planted around June 15 and harvested roughly 90 days later, Barden said. Then it will be processed into CBD oil and shipped to stores.
It will cost farmers a fee of $50 per acre annually, up to $5,000, to grow hemp in Georgia, according to the state’s licensing rules. Processors will have to pay an initial $25,000 fee followed by a $10,000 annual fee.
The state Agriculture Department is accepting applications online for hemp farming licenses. Once an application is received, the department will verify the applicant’s information, run background checks, collect payments and issue licenses.
Licensing may be delayed beyond 20 days after applications are completed because agriculture licensing staff is stretched thin as they focus their efforts on helping farmers respond to the coronavirus, said Julie McPeake, a state Agriculture Department spokeswoman.
“We certainly are trying to get it turned around as quickly as possible,” McPeake said.