AIKEN , SC (WJBF) – South Carolina hemp farming applications will be opening at the beginning of the year. Researchers at Clemson say in the four short years of legalized growing, permits grew from 20 to more than 200.

For farmer Ariel Ezekiel, growing hemp is a rewarding challenge.

“It’s definitely a different plant and a different process,” said Ezekiel.

She’s been raising the legalized cannabis plant on 40 acres in Aiken since being awarded a permit in 2019. 

Ezekiel said, “I would definitely say start small. A lot of our farmers’ first year in have started between one and five acres so I think they have seen just how different it can be in that first year in.”

Hemp farming permit applications open January first in the Palmetto State.

“If you’re permitted now, you still have to renew your permit and it’s not really a renewal process so you’re going to start a new application,” said Ezekiel.

This year hemp farmers can have more money in their pockets, application fees are cut in half to 100 dollars. 

“The lower fees allow people to jump in to this space a start to learn without as large as an investment and it is a big learning curve that first year,” said Marty Ford, hemp processor for Ascent Naturals.

Marty Ford is one of the very few hemp processors in South Carolina. He extracts the oil from plant material which is turned into topicals, gummies, and many more CBD products.

“The processor fees have also been cut in half. They’ve gone from $3,000 a year to $1,500 a year,” said Ford.

Farmer fees are also being slashed for 2022. Ezekiel says it’s 500 bucks and orientation for new farmers is mandatory. 

Ford said, “For those who farmed in 2021, if you’re farming in 2022, orientations is going to be optional for us. I would still encourage those to attend the orientation.”

Hemp farming applications will be accepted through February 28th.