There is a lot of discussion going on about some new potential agricultural enterprises that are being discussed in various news media outlets as well as at recent meetings here in our area.

Individuals are encouraged to educate themselves on those matters and do thorough research before investing in these ventures.

There will be producers that do well, and there will be those that lose.

Recently, Macon County Extension hosted an industrial hemp meeting with approximately 100 people attending. There was information on growing and producing industrial hemp.

Many ask what the difference between industrial hemp and marijuana is. This explanation of differences come straight from the Tennessee Deptartment of Agriculture (TDA), the entity that controls licensing and monitoring of hemp crops.

Industrial hemp is a form of Cannabis sativa and is of the same plant species as marijuana. However, hemp is genetically different and distinguished by its use and chemical makeup.

Industrial hemp refers to Cannabis that is primarily grown as an agricultural crop. Hemp plants are low in THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, marijuana's primary psychoactive chemical). THC levels for hemp generally are less than 1 percent.

Federal legislation that would exclude hemp from the legal definition of marijuana would set a ceiling of 0.3 percent THC for Cannabis to be identified as hemp. Marijuana refers to the flowering tops and leaves of psychoactive Cannabis, which is grown for its high content of THC. THC levels for marijuana average about 10 percent but can go much higher.

There are potentially tens of thousands of products that can be produced from the hemp plant. Many have heard about the CBD oil that is used.

CBD (Cannabidiol) is a chemical compound that comes from the hemp plant. It is one of more than 85 unique compounds found in hemp, known as cannabinoids. Legal CBD products that you find on the market will be extracts from hemp, as federal law allows for the cultivation, processing and marketing of hemp and hemp products.

There is also the fiber potential for industrial hemp, again the uses of the fiber (the stalk part of the plant) are quite large into the thousands. Industrial hemp has often been compared to cotton for its uses.

Some interesting facts are that on an annual basis, one acre of hemp will produce as much fiber as two or three acres of cotton. Hemp fiber is stronger and softer than cotton, lasts twice as long as cotton, and will not mildew.

Cotton grows only in moderate climates and requires more water than hemp, but hemp is frost tolerant, requires only moderate amounts of water, and grows in all 50 states. Cotton requires large quantities of pesticides and herbicides, with 50 percent of the world's pesticides/herbicides used in the production of cotton. Hemp requires no pesticides, no herbicides, and only moderate amounts of fertilizer.

On an annual basis, one acre of hemp will produce as much paper as 2-4 acres of trees. From tissue paper to cardboard, all types of paper products can be produced from hemp.

This is an exciting time, but again caution needs to be taken by anyone considering jumping into industrial hemp production.

Another informative industrial hemp meeting will be taking place in Wilson County on Dec. 6 at 6 p.m. Space is limited, so individuals can call 615-444-9584 to put their name on the list. There is no cost.

It is highly suggested that anyone interested that has not attended one of the informative meetings attend the Dec. 6 meeting.

Also, for anyone considering growing industrial hemp, the time frame for applying for a license to grow the crop is from Nov. 15, 2018, until Feb. 15, 2019. Individuals can contact the TDA at 615-837-5338. That number is for Katy Kilbourne's office, which will help with understanding the legalities of growing.

It would be wise also for anyone wanting to know more to visit the TDA industrial hemp website at www.tn.gov/agriculture/farms/hemp-industry.html.

Confined cow/calf feeding potential

Another opportunity that a lot of Macon County producers know about is beef cattle production.

Macon County is fortunate to have a cattlemen's association, with approximately 130 members. That association is open to anyone, regardless of whether one owns cattle or not but have an interest in beef cattle.

The dues are $20 on the county level and will be taken during the February annual meeting, where a ribeye steak meal will be provided to members and their families.

Individuals can contact the Macon County Extension Office at 615-666-3341 to join or for more information.

The Macon County Cattlemen's Association (MCCA) will be hosting a confined cow/calf feeding operation meeting on Nov. 29 at 6 p.m. in the Macon County High School auditorium.

The meeting will discuss all the information with setting up a confined feeding operation of from 50 cows/calves to potentially more than 100 head in a single barn feeding operation.

The cattlemen members toured a couple of similar facilities in Kentucky early in 2018, with those cows/calves content with being with 80 others in a barn year-round.

According to one of the producers, it adds three years to the life of the cow, since they are able to be viewed by the producer at any time of the day, able to easier provide treatment for sick cattle than out in pasture setting. Also, there is no threat of predators on newborn calves or cows, and the feet and legs of the cows are in better condition from not being on rough/hilly ground.

University specialist, Dr. Morgan Hayes, helped set producers up with barn plans and ideas of how to convert existing tobacco barns into confined feeding operations. Hayes will be speaking.

There are also hopes to have a producer that is currently in that type of operation to share the good points as well as the bad points.

Light refreshments will be served at the meeting, and there is no cost to attend the meeting. For anyone needing advance master beef credit for 2019, that meeting will substitute for one night of class.

Individuals can call the Macon County Extension Office for more details.

Stay tuned to the Macon County Cattlemen's Facebook page for upcoming activities as well to the Macon County Extension Facebook page, which will have information on potential meetings in the spring of 2019 relating to hops production in the area, among other new niche crops for producers.

Tennessee Corn Referendum

The Tennessee Corn Referendum will be held from Nov. 28-29.

The question on the referendum ballot will be ... shall the producers of corn assess themselves at the rate of one cent per bushel of corn sold?

If passed, the funds will be paid over to the Tennessee Corn Promotion Board to finance programs of research, education, market development, marketing, advertising and other methods to promote the increased production, consumption, use and sale of corn products.

As by law, the polling place in each county will be the offices of the University of Tennessee Extension. The Macon County Extension office is at 113 East Locust St. in Lafayette. Individuals can vote between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Any corn producer as defined by TCA 43-29-103 is eligible to vote.