Hemp planting underway in Southside

Commercial hemp production legalized in US in December

HALIFAX COUNTY, Va. – Using a mechanical planter designed to plant tobacco, planting hemp was a trial-and-error process for Garland Comer on Friday afternoon.

It’s a process he and many other tobacco growers are eager to perfect.

Commercial hemp production was legalized in the U.S. in December 2018.

“Everybody’s just grasping for something to take the place of tobacco right now, and we’re hoping that this might be the ticket," Comer said.

Because hemp is so new, growers aren’t able to get loans to cover the cost of growing it.

They have to cover the $12,000 to $20,000 an acre cost out of their own pocket.

“We had to get licensed to do it, trying to get your plant from where it’s produced to here. We really don’t know about the growing yet," Comer said.

He’s planting 10 acres.

Compounding the risk is the fact that extension agents, like Stephen Barts in Pittsylvania County, are still trying to understand hemp just like the growers.

“We don’t have a lot of research to back up  some of the assertions that we’d make on agronomic practices and things of that nature,” Barts said.

Now that hemp is being grown, that will hopefully change.

“I’m looking forward to being able to answer some of those questions with a purely scientific basis in the next crop year," Barts said.

As for Comer, he, too, is looking forward to learning from this year’s crop.

His goal is to have his hemp planted by June 15.

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