Missouri farmers will be able to grow industrial hemp in 2020

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COLUMBIA - Beginning in 2020, Missouri farmers will be able to grow industrial hemp.

The Missouri Department of Agriculture began taking in producer applications on December 16. The department will begin to process the applications on January 2.

Hemp is a strain of the Cannabis sativa plant. While it does contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) like the drug cannabis, it does not contain enough to produce a high.

Hemp is more often used for its industrial purposes, like in textiles, paper, biodegradable plastics and paint.

John Ortiz works with the Missouri Hemp Association. He said hemp is a new commodity that could be valuable for farmers in Missouri.

"It's taken a little more work, but it's worth it," Ortiz said. "We want to know what is the latest and greatest and still be low cost for producers."

But while it may sound like a profitable opportunity, Ortiz cautions any potential hemp farmers to start small at first. 

"Start with an acre to two acres. Do something that's manageable," he said. "It's pretty labor intensive, and that's one of the things that a lot of people don't understand."

In the long run, Ortiz said he thinks hemp will benefit Missouri's economy in a number of ways.

"I think it's going to create a lot of labor for a lot of people as well," he said. "Not only that, but for industrial jobs as well."

There is no deadline to submit an application to grow hemp. However, the Department of Agriculture recommends growers wait until their application has been approved before planting seeds.

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