Public Service and Agriculture

FRCS seminar explains the Certified Hemp process


Industrial hemp has been a hot topic in South Carolina agriculture in the past several years. With the passage of the 2018 Farm bill, removing the crop from the controlled substance list, hemp farming has been a growing industry.

In 2020, around 350 people applied to the S.C. Department of Agriculture for a hemp permit. However, consistent and reliable germination for hemp seed continues to be a problem for hemp growers in the state.

With the anticipated adoption of hemp standards to S.C. legislation, the Department of Fertilizer Regulatory and Certification Services (FRCS) identified the need for continuing education for this very unique crop. FRCS hosted a Certified Hemp Training Seminar at Clemson University April 14-15.  Due to Covid-19 restrictions, in-person attendees were limited to the Southern Region AOSCA agency heads. While over 50 participants participated via Zoom from all over the country. 

“An important message that we need to relay to the public is that not all ‘varieties’ of hemp on the market today can be certified,” said Sarah Wilbanks, who leads FRCS.  

Certification involves a two-step process starting with a Variety Review. This review is completed by the AOSCA variety review board following the U.S. Federal Seed Act regulations. The variety must be proven to be distinct, uniform and stable. Breeding history and variety characteristics also are examined. 

The second step to the process is the production of certifiable seed. This starts with the variety owner applying to the Seed Certification department. The seed has to be produced according to South Carolina standards. The seed must be cleaned in an approved conditioner, analyzed at the state seed laboratory and tagged by the Seed Certification Department. A Clemson Blue Tag would provide the assurance to the customer of the quality of the seed.

Speakers in the seminar included Kelly Flynn (Clemson University Extension), Dr. John McKay (NewWest Genetics), Dr. David Schoff (N.C. State Extension), Dr. Steve Malone (USDA), Chet Boruff (AOSCA), Tom Hardiman (Virginia Crop Improvement) and Dr. Bill Foote (N.C. Crop Improvement).A local hemp grower, Dr. Allison Justice from “The Hemp Mine,” hosted the group for an in-field training.