Mature hemp

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — After the 2018 Farm Bill opened the door for growing hemp, Missouri is looking to get regulated growth of the crop going in the state.

The Missouri General Assembly passed legislation in 2018 to remove hemp from the definition of marijuana and list of controlled substances and create an Industrial Hemp Pilot Program to be implemented by the Missouri Department of Agriculture.

The state legislature then passed a bill during this year’s session to open industrial hemp growing opportunities.

“That kind of loosened up that legislation,” says Sami Jo Freeman, public information administrator for the Department of Agriculture.

Freeman said the effort to pass legislation legalizing hemp production was “industry led,” and the department has already held its comment period on growing hemp.

The bill is awaiting signature from Gov. Mike Parson.

Freeman says the department is waiting to see if the new legislation gets signed into law to know exactly how to implement the pilot program, but the first step is sharing information.

“In August we’ll be doing educational outreach meetings,” she says.

Unless the existing order changes, the meetings would be followed by grower applications being available. Freeman says there is a lot of interest in growing the crop.

“The feedback we’re getting is people are definitely excited about it,” she says.

Hemp was historically grown in Missouri, and there is the potential for it to do well in the state.

“I believe it was a pretty big crop in Missouri,” Freeman says. “The anecdotal evidence we have shows that we have a potential here in Missouri.”

Dave Drennan serves on the board of the Missouri Hemp Association and says the new bill passed by the Missouri legislature would allow for the growing of hemp this year by research universities.

“We’re anxious for the governor to sign that ag omnibus bill so we can get some seeds in the ground,” he says.

This research in 2019 could act as variety trials and help provide information for Missouri farmers looking to grow hemp products for market in 2020.

“In that omnibus ag bill there’s regulations that would allow the planting of industrial hemp tomorrow,” Drennan says.

Dale Ludwig serves as executive director of the Missouri Hemp Association, which growers formed earlier this year.

Drennan says hemp has a long history in Missouri.

“Up until the Civil War, Missouri was a huge producer of industrial hemp,” he says. “Then it just kind of went away. In World War II, they grew a lot of it, using it for rope and paper when resources were very tight.”

Drennan says the oil is a primary product from hemp at the moment.

“The primary product right now is the oil,” he says. “The oil everybody is after.”

But Drennan thinks there are a lot of other opportunities in hemp, and having an association can help find new uses.

He says it reminds him of the situation with soybeans when he came out of college in the 1970s, and all the new uses that industry developed since then.

“I see a lot of parallels to soybeans in a way,” he says.

The Missouri Hemp Association is holding an informational meeting from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on July 30 at the Stoney Creek Inn in Columbia for anyone interested in growing industrial hemp, looking “from seed to sale.” Drennan says all interested growers are welcome to attend.

Ben Herrold is Missouri field editor, writing for Missouri Farmer Today, Iowa Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.