Great Plains Growers Conference sign

Tom Fowler, a horticulturalist with University Extension in St. Joseph, prepares a sign Monday morning for the upcoming Great Plains Growers Conference at Missouri Western. The ensuing production of industrial hemp in the state will be one of the new topics to be discussed at the conference on Thursday.

Potential growers of industrial hemp, including those in Northwest Missouri, have begun submitting applications to state officials in hopes of securing permission to raise the crop.

The Missouri Department of Agriculture formally began accepting the applications Jan. 2 for registration to grow industrial hemp later this year. Officials said they will review the proposals before deciding who garners the approvals, although a further timeline has not been set. The Farm Bill has allowed regional proponents to continue their pursuit of pilot programs in advance of commercial production.

In the meantime, the prospective producers will gather later this week at the 2020 Great Plains Growers Conference to hear an update from those familiar with industrial hemp in the four-state area. New this year, an all-day workshop on the topic is scheduled for Thursday in the Fulkerson Center at Missouri Western.

“We’re still taking registrations,” said Extension horticulturalist Tom Fowler, who is helping organize the conference. “We’re probably kind of average” in terms of projected attendance, he added, with a typical turnout of about 300 anticipated for the 24th edition.

Fowler said it takes collaboration from colleagues in Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas and Iowa to help manage the three-day conference.

“Every year, you wonder how this is going to come together,” he added.

The hemp workshop will cover agronomy, integrated pest management, marketing and state-level research. Each of the four states will be involved in breakout sessions on regulations.

Greg Luce — a University of Missouri plant sciences instructor who helps lead an industrial hemp working group of specialists — said informational sessions on industrial hemp continue to be held this month across the state.

Luce said a website, https://extension2.missouri.edu/programs/industrial-hemp, has been established as a clearinghouse of information on the crop.

On-farm trials will likely continue, according to Luce, even as state agriculture officials pore over the applications.

”There’s no end to the amount of things we can test,” he said.

Jim Crawford, superintendent of the Graves-Chapple Research Center in Atchison County, told News-Press NOW a springtime renewal of an industrial hemp test plot at the facility is currently tentative, pending approval from the state and a check of Missouri River flooding.

Ray Scherer can be reached

at ray.scherer@newspressnow.com.

Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPScherer.