Growing industrial hemp is not yet legal in the state of Texas, but that doesn't mean there is not a rapidly growing amount of interest, questions and calls.

In response, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service has formed an Industrial Hemp Education Initiative Team to provide information concerning industrial hemp production in Texas.

"It is still not legal to grow hemp in Texas until several steps are taken," said Larry Redmon, AgriLife Extension program leader and associate department head in Texas A&M University's soil and crop sciences department, College Station.

Although House Bill 1325 has been signed into law by the Governor, Redmon said, it still requires the establishment of licenses, fees, criminal offenses and civil and administrative penalties.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture must finalize federal regulations and guidelines, followed by the Texas Department of Agriculture writing state regulations and guidelines and getting them approved by the USDA.

When all of that is done, potential growers will have to complete the licensing process before a single seed is planted, Redmon said. The licensing program will be established by the Texas Department of Agriculture and requires producers to go through a background check and have a third-party crop testing to validate THC levels.

"We don't know a timeline on all these steps being completed, but USDA anticipates its part to be done by the end of this year," Redmon said.

Hemp, as outlined in the bill, refers to the plant Cannabis sativa L., including the seeds and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts and salts of isomers with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, THC, concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry-weight basis.

Non-consumable hemp products include cloth, cordage, fiber, fuel, paint, paper, particleboard and plastics derived from hemp.

Once all the pieces are in place, AgriLife Extension's industrial hemp education team will help develop resources for agents and specialists to utilize across the state in producer and public education programs.

Other AgriLife Extension members are agronomists Calvin Trostle of Lubbock, and Reagan Noland of San Angelo; regional program leaders Todd Swift of Uvalde, and Brent Batchelor of Stephenville; economists Joe Outlaw and George Knapek both of College Station; communications, Kay Ledbetter of Amarillo; and county agents David Graf of Wichita Falls, Bryan Davis of Wilson Jason Ott of Nueces; Zach Wilcox of Nolan and Megan Eikner,pf Potter.

Industrial hemp has been grown in most U.S. states, including Texas. In the 1930s, there was initial hemp production in South Texas. Though the Texas Rangers and TDA inspected and approved the production, in 1937 it was banned by the Texas governor.

In addition to educational programs, the future could include Texas A&M AgriLife initiating a limited research plan on industrial hemp as early as 2020, Redmon said. The primary objective would be to identify which approved varieties -- those with 0.3% or less THC -- perform best in regional adaptation and production of biomass/fiber, seed and oil yield under different Texas environments.

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