ONTARIO — Hemp production is increasing by leaps and bounds around Oregon and other parts of the country. And while other crops are well-organized and grow well, hemp is still coming into its own as seeds are not always available. There is also a problem with weed control as chemicals may not be used and some hemp is over-irrigated or under-irrigated, some times in the same field.
Clint Shock, one of the organizers of the first Treasure Valley Hemp Conference, said that was the goal of the meeting: to improve production. The conference was held on Friday and Saturday for producers, handlers and people interested in the nutritional side of hemp. More than 100 people interested in the industry showed up for Friday.
People from as far away as Washington State showed up for the first day of the event held at the Four Rivers Cultural Center, focused on producers. The second day focused on the nutritional values and products of hemp, as well as the industry.
Sunny Summers, with the hemp program at the Oregon Department of Agriculture, said there are significant growers along the I-5 corridor in central Oregon, the Columbia River Basin, as well as in Malheur County.
According to one of her charts, in 2015 there were 13 registered growers in Oregon with 105 acres, which had increased to 1961 growers in 2019, producing on 64,142 acres.
Oregon hemp grower requirements include registration, seed clone tissue, testing of hemp 28 days prior to harvest, processor registration, testing hemp products such as CBD oil seed, smokable hemp, vape and edibles, before its finally gets into retail.
Grower issues include whether to grow open field or in a greenhouse, plant dates, seeding depth, plant spacing, organic treatments and harvest and post-harvest treatments.
“As for use of chemicals, the label on the containers is the law,” Summer said and on some chemicals the environmental projection agency has not done risk assessment on them.
The tests before harvest is for the THC levels. Hemp growers want to see 3 percent THC or lower, as above 3 percent is marijuana. If a crop tests above 3 percent, it must be destroyed, Summers said.
If the number of registrations submitted this year is any indication, the number of growers is still climbing. To date, the number of registration applications this year is more than three times the number of last year and if an application was submitted prior to Dec. 31, it is still legal to operate if even if registration has not been received. About 80 percent of applications are incomplete, Summer said, and ODA staff will be working six days a week for a couple of weeks to deal with the backlog.
Jay Noller, with Oregon State University’s hemp program, said there are a number of industry sectors involved in the hemp industry besides ag production, this include plant genetics and breeding, harvest and post harvest processors and manufacture, animal health and nutrition, human health and nutrition, engineering, chemistry, fiber and textiles, digital architecture and construction, business and marketing, and certification and international trade.
In the Global Hemp Innovation Center there are eight Oregon State colleges involved, 60 faculty members representing 25 disciplines with a global footprint of there than 40 research agreements.