When Gov. Mary Fallin recently approved the emergency rules for the Oklahoma Industrial Hemp Agriculture Pilot Program, potential farmers across the state got excited about getting in on the ground floor of this new industry.
However, a key element of this pilot program allows Oklahoma universities and colleges to facilitate research on all aspects of growing industrial hemp. Industrial hemp is the same plant species as marijuana, but in order to qualify as industrial hemp, the plant must contain a very low concentration of THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana.
There is interest from the private sector in exploring the cultivation of industrial hemp for a number of uses. It is used for its fiber in a variety of ways. It has been proposed as an alternative forage for livestock, and there is interest in potential medical benefits, to name a few.
“At this time, Oklahoma State University has not applied for a license and we do not anticipate applying for a license in time for this year’s growing season,” said Tom Coon, vice president of OSU’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.
Rather, OSU is taking a holistic approach on this new industry, evaluating agronomics, logistics, processing and economic feasibility. DASNR plans to spend the next six months gathering information, which may be used to develop Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service programming for the commercial growth of hemp.
Included in the legislation for the program are restrictions on entities that can legally grow industrial hemp.
Oklahoma colleges or universities with a plant science program that have applied for and been granted a license to grow industrial hemp are permitted. The license must be approved by the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry before the licensee can plant any seed.
Also, any entity that has an ODAFF-approved subcontract with a licensed college or university research program can legally grow hemp. There are detailed rules that must be followed for those interested in growing the crop as a subcontractor.
“There is a considerable amount of information that must be supplied in advance of approval to plant and grow a crop, including the exact location of the field or greenhouse, the ownership of the land or greenhouse, the intended disposition of the crop and a variety of additional information,” Coon said. “Anyone who is interested in growing as a subcontractor, or as a licensee if they are affiliated with a college or university, would be well advised to study the rules.”
Rules and the license and subcontractor application form can be found on ODAFF’s website, www.oda.state.ok.us.
“Anyone inquiring about growing under an OSU license should be informed that we are not taking applications for subcontractors for the 2018 growing season,” Coon said. “We will be taking the next six months to develop our strategy to ensure the best possible outcome for Oklahoma hemp growers in the future.”
Those interested in staying up-to-date with OSU’s participation in the Oklahoma Industrial Agricultural Hemp Pilot Program, or in partnering with the university should it file for a license in the future, can fill out a form on the Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station website, www.oaes.okstate.edu/ind-hemp.
The form asks for a name, company, address, contact information and nature of interest in the program.
Story by Sean Hubbard