The Texas House of Representatives approved a bill on Tuesday to legalize hemp agriculture in the state. The measure, House Bill 1325 (HB1325), also removes hemp from the state’s list of controlled substances and legalizes cannabidiol, or CBD, and products made with the cannabinoid. The bill was passed without opposition via a voice vote and will have to be approved by the House in a second vote that is usually only a formality. The bill will then head to the Texas Senate for consideration.
Gene Hall, a spokesman for the Texas Farm Bureau, said that legalizing hemp will give the state’s farmers a new option for their operations.
“There’s no good reason for Texas farmers and ranchers not to have hemp as a crop option,” said Hall. “I suspect a lot of farmers will choose this option once it’s available. It’s a drought-tolerant crop and can be grown anywhere where cropping is prevalent right now.”
HB1325 has the support of many lawmakers and government officials in Texas’ majority Republican Party, including state Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, who has pledged to “support any bill that helps Texas agriculture.”
If the bill is successful, Miller and the Department of Agriculture would be tasked with creating a hemp agriculture regulatory program including a system to license farmers who wish to grow the crop. The plan would then have to be submitted to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for approval.
“Allowing the Texas Department of Agriculture to create an industrial hemp program here in Texas will give Texas farmers an exciting new opportunity to thrive — and that’s something everyone should get behind,” Miller said. “It is all about Texas farmers and ranchers and seeing them prosper.”
Farming Green Gold
Jeff Lake of Elemental Processing, a hemp processing company operating under Kentucky’s hemp research pilot program, told members of the House Agriculture and Livestock Committee at hearings for HB1325 that his firm pays $3,000 to $5,000 per acre of hemp plus bonuses, in contrast to the $350 to $400 per acre of corn farmers receive in a good year.
HB 1325 was introduced in the Texas House in February by Democratic Rep. Tracy King, following the legalization of hemp agriculture by the federal government with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill in December of last year. King told his colleagues in the House that legalizing hemp could help farmers be successful.
“HB 1325 is right-to-farm legislation that will allow Texas farmers the opportunity to cultivate a drought-resistant cash crop — that being hemp,” King said.
King said that he hoped that the lack of debate in the House and the bill’s speedy passage will be followed by a nod from the Texas Senate.
“I’m optimistic that it will (win approval) in the Senate also,” he said.