ONTARIO — Hemp production is increasing by leaps and bounds around Oregon and other parts of the country. And while other crops are well-organized and grow well, hemp still is coming into its own.

Seeds are not always available. Regulations prohibit the use of chemicals for weed control. Some hemp is over-irrigated or under-irrigated, sometimes in the same field.

Clint Shock, one of the organizers of the first Treasure Valley Hemp Conference, Ontario, said the goal of the meeting was to improve production. The conference was Friday and Saturday for producers, handlers and people interested in the nutritional side of hemp. More than 100 people interested in the industry showed up Friday.

The first day focused on producers, and people from as far away as Washington state to the Four Rivers Cultural Center. The second day focused on the nutritional values and products of hemp, as well as the industry.

Sunny Summers, with the hemp program at the Oregon Department of Agriculture, said there are significant growers along the Interstate 5 corridor in central Oregon, the Columbia River Basin, as well as in Malheur County.

According to one of her charts, in 2015 there were 13 registered growers in Oregon with 105 acres. In 2019, there were 1,961 growers producing on 64,142 acres.

Oregon hemp grower requirements run a gamut of requirements, from registration to testing of hemp 28 days prior to harvest to testing hemp products such as CBD oil seed before its finally gets into retail. Growers consider whether to grow open field or in a greenhouse, seeding depth, organic treatments and more.

"As for use of chemicals, the label on the containers is the law," Summer said, and on some chemicals the Environmental Projection Agency has not done risk assessment on them.

The tests before harvest is to determine THC levels. Tetrahydrocannabinol is the main compound that gives the high sensation. Hemp growers want to see 3% THC or lower, because above 3% is marijuana. If a crop tests above 3&, growers must destroy it, Summers said.

Jay Noller with Oregon State University's hemp program said there are a number of industry sectors involved in the hemp industry besides ag production, including plant genetics and breeding. human health and nutrition and business and marketing.

If the number of registrations submitted this year is any indication, the number of growers is climbing. To date, the number of registration applications this year is more than three times the number of last year and if an application was submitted prior to Dec. 31, it still is legal to operate if even if registration has not been received.

About 80% of applications are incomplete, Summer said, and state ag department staff will be working six days a week for a couple of weeks to deal with the backlog.

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