The key ingredient in everything from energy drinks to cosmetics would get an extra two weeks to mature before harvest under a bill passed Tuesday by the Senate.
The move came at the behest of the state Department of Natural Resources, which said Senate Bill 81 would help sustain Georgia’s booming ginseng crop.
Ginseng grows wild especially in the state’s northern piedmont region and the North Georgia mountains, where harvesters pick the plant for its roots. Once dried, the roots as recently as 2011 fetched about $350 per pound — although not without some work. According to state officials, it usually takes about 183 roots to make a pound.
Anyone harvesting the plant has to make sure it is mature, and must plant the ripe berries of the harvested ginseng at the same location where they picked it.
DNR officials said current law allows ginseng harvesting to begin Aug. 15 every year. The bill would move that back to Sept. 1 to allow more time for the berries to ripen, with harvesting allowed until Dec. 31. Ginseng is also regulated by federal authorities, and the change keeps the state in compliance with federal regulations.
SB 81 now goes to the House for consideration. It passed the Senate on a 43-3 vote.