TALENT — Travel through southern Oregon at this time of year and the potent smell of the region’s signature cash crop is unmistakable.
Rows of big and bushy plants, their long limbs heavy with flowers, dot the landscape.
You’re thinking marijuana, of course. And you’d be mostly right.
But a growing number of the plants today are hemp.
Five years into the state’s experiment with the crop, the maligned and misunderstood cousin to marijuana is on track to become a billion-dollar juggernaut – fueled in large part by the CBD craze.
Hemp acreage has increased from about 100 acres to an estimated 27,000 in Oregon, one of the first states to license production. It’s touted as having the potential to become the state’s top commodity, edging out marijuana and traditional agriculture giants like nursery crops.
The number of growers has catapulted from a dozen to about 1,700 as farmers and marijuana growers move to diversify and speculators try to cash in on the gold rush.
Oregon’s prime growing climate, a shift in federal policy that began six years ago and consumer clamor for all things cannabidiol have uniquely positioned the state to become one of the country’s leading producers of hemp.
Jay Noller, the state’s top hemp scientist and director of a hemp research institute at Oregon State University, said the crop has infused Oregon agriculture with a new