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North Carolina’s farmers have been asked to overcome a wide range of challenges in recent years: declining commodity prices, tariffs, hurricanes, floods and droughts. When federal lawmakers legalized hemp production in the 2018 U.S. farm bill, the new cash crop gave us hope for the future of North Carolina farming.
Hemp has the potential to generate significant financial returns for North Carolina farmers. Moreover, our climate and the expertise honed over generations as a worldwide leader in tobacco farming has positioned us well to lead in this promising new industry — saving family farms and providing a boost to struggling rural economies.
Yet, here we are battling with misinformed lawmakers and narrow-minded law enforcement representatives who refuse to believe the economic reality of legal hemp. Instead, they spend their time crafting language that would miscategorize federally legal hemp as marijuana, a move that would handicap our farmers and limit their access to financing and crop insurance.
Not to mention that any such law will almost certainly be challenged in court for attempting improperly to preempt federal law, similar to what just happened to a comparable law in Indiana.
The overwhelming majority of voters agree with hemp farmers. A recent poll from Public Policy Polling found that 71% of respondents do not believe that law enforcement would be justified in confiscating and/or arresting citizens and business owners who possess hemp or products containing hemp, since it is a federally approved agricultural commodity.
North Carolinians want to see the hemp industry live up to its full potential, as 70% of state voters support hemp cultivation here because it enables farmers to sustain their farms and to boost their rural communities.
Farmers have attempted to find solutions to law enforcement concerns. Unfortunately, law enforcement representatives have consistently dismissed our attempts at compromise.
It’s time for those with concerns to put their differences aside and work with Republican state Sen. Brent Jackson, an Autryville farmer, to pass a North Carolina farm bill that truly supports our state’s farmers.
David Claude Mayer
The writer is a family farmer in rural Martin County, where he has raised poultry, hogs, corn, wheat, soybeans, peanuts, sage and now hemp.