By Toni Stauffer
Starting next week on Oct. 7, registration for the 2020 Alabama Industrial Hemp Program opens. Nov. 14 is the deadline for growers, handlers, processors, and universities to submit applications. According to Dennis Delaney, team leader for the Alabama Extension’s Hemp Action Team, applicants need to be sure they have all documentation submitted with the application fee. Along with the $200 fee, applications and other documentation, there is a background check as required by the 2018 Agriculture and Nutrition Act (2018 Farm Bill). Those interested in applying to this highly regulated program can download forms and other materials from the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) website.
The licensing and inspection program for industrial hemp production was developed in 2018. It is unlawful for the public to grow, transport, or process hemp without a permit issued by the ADAI. Backyard grows are not permitted and only serious applicants will be considered. In 2019, the first legal crop of industrial hemp was planted in Alabama since World War II and since April, 2019, 180 hemp farmers have been approved. In Russell County, there are currently three licensed growers and four exist in Lee County.
The Hemp Action Team is developing management practices and protocols related to cultivation, and in particular, insect and disease management for industrial hemp. A number of diseases and insects that attack hemp have been identified in Alabama, but it is not known yet what effect they are having. Licensed growers should contact the team for help identifying insect pests and diseases. Jennifer Davidson said the Russell County Extension office has very limited technical information and that people should call the ADAI, if they have questions.
“This is a new crop and we don’t have a lot of research yet,” Davidson said. “The research is trying to catch up with the crop.”
Some may hear hemp and think marijuana. While hemp is of the same family as marijuana, it doesn’t have any hallucinogenic properties, because it lacks the psychoactive THC compound. Industrial hemp is used for fiber to make robe, and its stalks and seeds are used to make such things as fabric, fiber board, carpeting, insulation, livestock feed, and automobile components. It can be a source for the popular CBD oil, which is used to treat physical ailments.
For more information on industrial hemp in Alabama, you can call the ADAI at (334) 240-7100, or (800) 642-7761. They can also be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.