Posted on Leave a comment

5 things Texas farmers can do while waiting for hemp licenses

(Photo: Green Lynx Farms in Colorado / Zachary Maxwell)

With the release of the US Department of Agriculture’s interim hemp rule, it’s anticipated that Texas’ growers will be able to obtain hemp licenses in early 2020.

Until then, here’s some things you can work on now to better prepare for a successful grow operation in the future:

1. Soil Preparation

We can’t stress enough the value of good soil preparation. It starts with a soil test to determine what nutrients, organic matter, and problems may exist in your soil. Dr. Tony Povin with Texas A&M Agrilife suggests a soil test using the Mehlich 3 method.

An agronomist with Servi-Tech suggests that using fertility recommendations for hemp grain production would sufficiently cover flower (CBD) production. Texas Hemp Growers members save 5% on all Servi-Tech lab testing services, like soil and irrigation tests. And when submitting a soil sample, Servi-Tech will offer amendment recommendations to prepare your soil fertility for hemp.

2. Plant Material Selection

Stable seeds are selling fast. Do not wait until just before the planting season to select your seed, clone, or seedling vendor. Many reputable seed producers have either entirely contracted out their seeds, or are pre-selling out several years.

It’s never too early to line up your plant material purchases. Some vendors may offer a deposit option to secure the materials, with the remainder paid on delivery. If possible, vet your plant material source by visiting in-person. Ensure they grow in a clean and responsible environment. Some vendors may even offer replant agreements for crop failure, although this isn’t shared by everyone.

3. Mapping your grow area

Start mapping out your grow area. Identify and correct weak spots, such as excessive shaded areas. Determine your water source and how you intend to deliver the water to your plants. Companies, like Servi-Tech, offer field imaging services. If possible, begin collecting the GPS coordinates for the boundaries of your grow area, they will be needed when applying for your license.

4. Scouting for buyers

Just like vetting plant materials, it’s never too early to start a conversation with potential buyers, If you have a connection with a processing company, now would be a good time to strengthen that relationship. What plant strain, cannabinoid value, terpene profiles, beneficial microbial content, and other requirements does your end crop need to fulfill to meet the needs of the buyer? Is your buyer licensed, bonded and insured? Will they let you visit their facility? How much biomass can they process each day, and will they be able to process everything you deliver? Don’t wait until the last minute to answer these questions. Find the answers before you grow, so that you’re not rushing to figure it out during the heat of harvest season. Remember, your hemp crop has a shelf life.

5. Education

One of the best investments of your time between now and the availability of licenses is to continue investing in your education. If you haven’t already, consider attending a Texas Hemp Growers Master Class. These half-day courses cover a lot of ground in hemp education, and have been lauded as a great value by class attendees. Joining social media groups, like the Texas Hemp Growers group, and keeping up with livestreams, podcasts, and news articles are great ways to learn about the industry. Institutions, like the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension, are constantly organizing events, such as the Rolling Plains Industrial Hemp Conference, where hemp education is discussed. Texas Hemp Growers members enjoy monthly newsletters and an updated growers guide among other educational opportunities. Join today for just $79 and receive many other support benefits.

Posted on Leave a comment

The pathetic demise of hemp and why government needs to STAY OUT

By Zachary Maxwell

I find it impressive that none of the experts with which I’ve visited on the subject of hemp knows the true history behind the demise of the industry. There’s a lot to be learned by looking to the past.

Many persons wrongly believe hemp was crushed under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. But a closer look reveals the industry died well before this, and for reasons unrelated to the ban of certain substances.

The year was 1949, and the American government had committed the country to a post-war rebuild effort in Europe. The government presented America’s hemp farmers a unique opportunity: grow hemp to the tune of hundreds of thousands of acres, and it would buy the millions of pounds of fiber to ship overseas to France to help rebuild the war-torn nation.

Such an offer couldn’t be resisted by hemp farmers, and so they obliged.

But in 1950, the government–doing what it does best–went back on its promise to purchase the fiber. Unexpectedly, farmers were left sitting on an exhausting amount of fiber that couldn’t be sold on the market. This fiber glut created an immediate decline in pricing, which seemed to haunt the industry until its demise several years later.

But the problem was further compounded with two inventions: synthetic fiber and gum tape.

Because of the instability in the retting process, synthetic fibers, like nylon and orion, were seen as stable, reliable alternatives for manufacturers. The tensile strength of synthetics was easier to control, and the outcomes more predictable than the unstable retting process required to separate hemp fibers from their woody core. Weather and moisture could wreck a farmer’s crop during the field retting process, as was the case in 1953 and 1954.

And with the invention of gum tape, hemp lost its biggest post-war market: the postal service. No longer did packages need to be tied with hemp cord. Instead, they could be sealed with tape.

The last successful hemp fiber crop was planted in 1957. But even then, it took over a year for farmers to sell the fiber.

In 1958, the industry came to a pathetic end, with a final crop of hemp grain being sold on the market as bird feed for $2 a bushel. Each bushel cost $10 to process.

There was also one other thing that I believe played into the industry’s demise: the death of Matthew Rens, America’s Hemp King, in 1950. Rens was the visionary who breathed life into the hemp industry in the decades before the war. When the government wished to commission hemp mills during the war, it sought out the sage advice of Rens.

But with Rens death, so went the energy and vision. And the hemp industry would sputter to a halt in just a few years.

The Controlled Substance Act of 1970 was simply a final nail in the coffin. Because nobody had been growing hemp for 12 years, the harmless plant was caught up in Reefer Madness hysteria and banned alongside its cousin.

The revival of the fiber industry will take a strong visionary, like Rens; someone who can lead the industry into a future steeped in free market principles and consumer choice. Governing authorities should take cautious note of this sordid history and interpret it as a sign that it should keep its hands out, and let the market redevelop on its own terms.

Have you reserved your seats for a Texas Hemp Growers Master Class? Click here for a schedule.