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New Mexico State University will offer the state's first-ever workshop for industrial hemp producers in May.

The workshop will take place May 23-24 in Las Cruces at the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum, 4100 Dripping Springs Road. It will be presented by horticulture agent Jeff Anderson of the Doña Ana County Extension Office.

"This is the first hemp conference in New Mexico," Anderson said, "and we're going to cover as much as we can in two days. We have a lot of people who are coming to share their expertise and knowledge."

The conference comes as NMSU prepares to take the lead in hemp research and education in New Mexico, following federal and state measures approved last year that legalized the plant, which is related to marijuana but contains less than 0.3 percent of the cannabinoid chemical THC.

At the conference, presenters will explore a range of topics, including: the history and uses of hemp; the differences between CBD and THC; the costs associated with starting a hemp-crop business; soil production and water requirements; organic vs. inorganic production; licensing and regulations from the New Mexico Department of Agriculture; as well as equipment requirements, extraction and biosecurity.

"We'll have one presentation on the legal challenges," Anderson said, “because everyone is going to want to know what are the legal challenges to getting a license. We'll also have one on hemp growing basics, which will include everything you have to do from planting to seeding to cultivars,"

Hemp can be an "unforgiving" crop for novice growers, Anderson said.

"If you make a mistake, it can be expensive," he added. "The license is expensive, and everything you do is going to be expensive. If you make a mistake and go outside of the legal limit of 0.3 percent THC, the whole crop has to be destroyed."

Registration for the conference is required. The cost is $120 per person and includes dinner, snacks and all workshop materials. To register, visit https://aces.nmsu.edu/2019hempworkshop/.

The conference marks NMSU's first hemp-related outreach effort. It aligns with the university's broader plan to start a robust hemp research and education program.

Earlier this year, the College of ACES detailed its hemp research and education proposals in a white paper report. The report identified five areas of hemp research expertise and interests, and called for the development of a comprehensive Hemp Research and Extension Center at NMSU, projected to cost an estimated $9.1 million over four years. Funding for the proposed center has not yet been secured.

Still, some of the proposed research would seek to develop the best management practices for hemp production at different locations in New Mexico and eliminate THC production and increase CBD synthesis in hemp. Separately, a proposed value-added agriculture research program would focus on identifying uses of hemp to add value to other commodities,

Hemp research also will be a key component of the new Center of Excellence on Sustainable Food and Agricultural Systems at NMSU.

The CESFAS, proposed by New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, will be developed in association with General Obligation Bond D, which voters passed by a margin of more than 65 percent in November 2018. The vision is to build a sustainable, vibrant food and agricultural economy in New Mexico through value-added research and education.

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