LUBBOCK, Texas — For those eager to grow hemp in 2020 it is still not legal in Texas until the state establishes regulations that must be approved by USDA.
It is unclear at this point if producers will have an opportunity to plant hemp as an alternative crop by spring.
Bill Pintech is a spokesperson for the Dallas based company Panda Biotech. Panda Biotech plans to build the largest industrial hemp facility in Shallowater, Texas.
“The conversations we’ve had is that the state of Texas is going to stay very, very close to the federal regulations, so that the state can ensure that there’s no problems within being approved,” he said.
The uses for hemp go well beyond the products that utilize the plant for (CBD) cannabidiol.
Hemp can be used for textiles, building products, paper products and bio-plastics among others.
“The hemp that will be processing at this facility will be used only for industrial applications for manufacturing applications,” Pintech said. “We’ll be processing it so that we can extract the fiber and the cellulose and use that in 100 different manufacturing applications.”
One regulation that is up for comment with the USDA is sample testing 15 days prior to harvesting hemp to ensure the crop is below the .3% THC level.
There will be an allowance for a margin of error in THC testing under the interim rule. If a grower is defined as being negligent then they are subject to a corrective action plan.
“We’ve heard from other states when the stress level goes up on the plant think drought, then that tends to spike the THC levels a little bit higher so that could be a concern,” said Calvin Trostle, Ph.D. Agronomist with Texas A&M AgriLife.
He also cautioned prospective producers that there are no current labeled crop protection products for insects or diseases and that general information will not be available until the second cropping season.
Hemp producers will be required to report each field, greenhouse or production site to the USDA Farm Service Agency which will issue a state issued license for each grower.
“Whether it’s 2020 or beyond if you’re interested in growing hemp, I think you need to have your buyer identified with some sort of commitment,” Trostle said. “Before you would put anything into a greenhouse transplant or a seed in the ground.”
Panda Biotech estimates that more than 130,000 tons of Texas-grown industrial hemp is expected to be processed annually into textile fiber and cellulose.
“We see hemp as being a great partner with cotton,” Pintech said. “In fact, when you take the strength of hemp and you combine it with the softness of cotton you probably end up with the finest textile fabric, or textile fabric in the world.”