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Serving: IN
hemp field
CROP BRINGS QUESTIONS: Interest is high in growing hemp, but many questions remain. Don Robison, Indiana seed administrator, sheds light on what’s known so far about growing hemp in Indiana.

Industrial hemp as crop in state of flux

Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering growing hemp in Indiana in the future.

Some groups have pushed to be able to grow hemp in Indiana over the past couple of years. The 2018 Farm Bill opened the door for the possibility of growing industrial hemp across the country, including in Indiana.

But the bill didn’t put all the mechanisms in place to allow someone to grow and market hemp legally in Indiana. And it perhaps raised more questions than it answered.

Don Robison has been one of the point people fielding questions and helping those interested in growing industrial hemp. He is the seed administrator in the Office of Indiana State Chemist and Seed Commissioner, housed at Purdue University.

Robison answers questions in part one of this two-part exclusive interview with Indiana Prairie Farmer. Because the regulations and legislation around this issue are still evolving, it’s best to follow up with Robison or a local Extension specialist to keep abreast of the latest developments related to growing hemp and marketing hemp products.

Who will be allowed to grow industrial hemp in Indiana in 2019? This is still a “research-only” year. However, the 2018 Farm Bill opened the selling of the crop and helps us move toward full commercialization in 2020. Applicants had to send in an application along with a research proposal. Also, they must be working with a qualified university researcher on their plot. Purdue’s main campus researchers got full quickly, so people have become creative, working with Ball State University, Vincennes University and the University of Southern Indiana research professors and others.  A deal was worked out to allow Purdue Extension educators to work as the researcher, and several growers have been successful in working with them.

What if someone grows hemp without approval? It is marijuana. The 2018 Farm Bill states that if you are growing hemp without a license, you are growing marijuana.

For those growing hemp this year, what regulations must they adhere to? It’s somewhat a combination of the 2014 law and the 2018 Farm Bill.  It must be research. However, the grower can process and sell their crop. The grower and researcher must be licensed through OISC before they can plant a crop.

What is your take on what the hemp will be used for? Is there a market? Most of the acres licensed for 2019 are for fiber production. CBD production would be second, with grain or seed being third. There will be a big push for acres over the next couple of years. Talk is Indiana will become a major CBD production state, and there is a ready-made market if the quality is high enough for about 5,000 acres of fiber. Car parts are being made from hemp fiber in Elkhart currently, and the company is importing that material from Asia.

Who will regulate hemp production and marketing in Indiana? OISC Seed Section will regulate hemp. The Indiana State Department of Agriculture will be involved in market development and marketing of the industry and crop. The Legislature will also play a role, and we’re waiting to see what legislation it passes. Our inspectors will randomly inspect fields and pull samples for THC testing. The process is similar to randomly pulling samples of fertilizer, pesticides, feeds and seed now.

Read the rest of the interview here.

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