Food and agriculture were recently designated a critical essential sector by the Department of Homeland Security. This allows and requires agriculture workers to continue their work during stay-at-home orders. Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller recently crafted a letter for ag workers to carry while they are traveling to work. The letter is available via the extension office and Texas Department of Agriculture website texasagriculture.gov under the COVID-19 response page.
Being labeled “essential” allows producers to do all the regular activities they have done in the past, including:
Feeding cows and other livestock.
Spraying pastures and fields.
Transporting farm equipment.
TDA has also been busy with industrial hemp. Applications opened March 16 via https://bit.ly/348aMuB. Producers are required to watch an orientation video before applying. The orientation video is approximately 25 minutes and discusses licensing, permits, testing and transportation of this new crop.
The license cost is $100 as defined by the Legislature. While applying for a license, producers must register one work facility along with the license. Licenses are good for one year and are not auto-renewed. They are non-transferable. There is no wait list, and licenses are unlimited in number.
Applicants must pass a criminal background check during the application process and be at least 18 years old. Once a license is granted, the holder must apply for a permit for each lot where hemp is grown. The facility registration fee is $100, and the lot registration fee is $100 for a total of $300 that is nonrefundable.
Sampling and testing must be conducted by a third-party vendor, which will also have cost to producers. The crop must be harvested within 15 days of a sample being taken. A transport manifest must be sent in with the sample.
If testing shows a “hot crop,” the crop must be destroyed via state guidelines. Only hemp seed approved by TDA can be used to grow industrial hemp. A TDA seed certification will indicate the variety and origin of the seed. Transplants, clones and cuttings can be used to help hemp producers start production. There is additional information for cuttings that must follow regular guidelines.
Pesticides are now approved for use on hemp by the Environmental Protection Agency. License holders are responsible for three years on any lot where hemp is grown. There are risks associated with this new hemp crop. Make sure you have a buyer contract before agreeing to grow hemp. Dealers and processors are looking to establish a good hemp market in Texas. Be sure to do research on marketing your crop.
Most successful producers have grown a crop on three acres or less. Producers should not overextend themselves on this crop, specifically in the early years of growing. Additional producer information can be found on the Texas A&M AgriLife extension website: https://agrilifeextension.tamu.edu/browse/hemp.
ZACH DAVIS is the agriculture and natural resources extension agent with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. He can be reached at 940-349-2889 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.